Nearly 7 million people in South Sudan could face acute food insecurity at the height of this lean season (May-July), three United Nations agencies warned today, urging for scaled-up humanitarian assistance and better access to humanitarian relief.
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report released today in Juba by the Government of South Sudan in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) shows that the number of people who are acutely food insecure has already increased by 13 per cent since January last year.
This includes some 30,000 people who are already experiencing extreme food insecurity (in catastrophe phase or IPC5, the highest level of food insecurity) in Jonglei and Lakes states, in eastern and central South Sudan.
The report shows that food insecurity continues to be driven by the cumulative effects of conflict, insufficient food production and associated population displacement. Local cereal production in 2019 will only supply 52 percent of the country’s cereal needs, compared to 61 per cent in 2018.
Conflict continues to disrupt food production, deplete livestock and constrain people’s access to alternative food sources. Prolonged dry spells, flooding, crop disease and pest infestation have severely impacted agricultural production which is largely rain-dependent. Poor people have been particularly vulnerable to high food prices and the limited availability of food in markets.
There is an urgent need for more funds to scale up humanitarian assistance to save lives and protect livelihoods. At the current level of assistance, the report indicates, some 50,000 people will be facing catastrophe (extreme food insecurity) between May and July. Without any assistance, this number could rise to 260,000.
There is a real risk of famine in those areas which are already very food insecure, should the overall situation in the country deteriorate and should there be a prolonged absence of humanitarian assistance. Parts of the country that are particularly at risk are Unity, Jonglei, Upper Nile and Lakes.
“Food insecurity is increasing in 2019,” said Simon Cammelbeeck, WFP’s Acting Country Director in South Sudan “Unless we scale up humanitarian and recovery activities soon, more and more people will be at risk. This is especially worrying as those most in need of assistance are malnourished women and children. We are gearing up to respond to this large rise in food needs.”
Malnutrition levels remain critical in many areas, with some 860,000 children under the age of five severely malnourished. However, there is likely to be an increased incidence of acute malnutrition during the coming lean season in most parts of the country.