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Over six million people face acute food insecurity

By Bullen Bala Alexander

About 6.5 million people in South Sudan more than half of the population would be in acute food insecurity, the government and three UN agencies said.

In a joint press release by the Government of South Sudan, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) yesterday based on Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report warned that Food security could worsen significantly in areas hit by last year’s floods.

Isaiah Chol Aruai, the chairman of National Bureau of Statistics said that the IPC analysis shows that food insecurity continues to affect almost half of the population of South Sudan, mainly due to climatic shocks, low crops production, pockets of insecurity, and the macro-economic crisis.

In January 2020, an estimated 5.3 million people, or 45% of the population were facing crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity or worse, out of which 1.11 million were facing emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity and 40,000 were in catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), according to the report.

According to the report, the people in catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in January 2020 were in Akobo, Duk and Ayod counties of Jonglei State.

“In order to prevent some of the populations from falling into catastrophe during the lean season, and save their lives, there is need for sufficient and sustained multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance to the affected populations,” Chol said.

“I urge you all to undertake close monitoring of the worst-affected areas particularly Akobo, Duk and Ayod so as to ensure that the food security situation does not deteriorate further to the extent of endangering people’s lives.”

According to the three UN Agencies, the situation is particularly worrying in the areas hardest hit by the 2019 floods, where food security has deteriorated significantly since last June.

Particularly at risk are 20,000 people who from February through April will be suffering from the most extreme levels of hunger (“catastrophe” level of food insecurity or IPC 5) in Akobo, Duk and Ayod counties that were hit by heavy rains last year, and need urgent and sustained humanitarian support, the report says.

Meanwhile FAO country Representative Mr. Meshack Malo said hunger was projected to get progressively worse between now and July, mainly in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap and Northern Bahr el-Ghazal, with over 1.7 million people facing an “emergency” level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 4) due to the impacts of devastating floods and low levels of food production.

He said thirty-three counties will reach an “emergency” level of food insecurity during the hunger season, up from 15 in January.

Malo added that overall, in January, 5.3 million South Sudanese were already struggling to feed themselves, or were in “crisis” or worse (IPC Phase 3 and above) levels of food insecurity.

“Despite some seasonal improvements in food production, the number of hungry people remains dangerously high, and keeps rising. On top of that, we are now faced with Desert Locusts swarms that could make this even worse, “It is important that we maintain and scale up our support to the people of South Sudan so they can resume or improve their livelihoods and food production, and boost the government’s capacity to respond to the locust outbreak,” said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan.

Matthew Hollingworth, WFP’s Country Director in South Sudan revealed that hunger is expected to deepen as of February due to mainly depleted food stocks and high food prices.

“Overall, the cumulative effects of flooding and related population displacement, localized insecurity, economic crisis, low crop production and prolonged years of asset depletion continue to keep people hungry.”

“The food security situation is dire, any kind of improvement which had been made was counter-balanced by the floods at the end of 2019, particularly for the hardest to reach communities,” he said.

 “We will have to do more to meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable as well as ensure communities across the country can recover so that in the future, they can withstand inevitable climatic and foods shocks.”

The report also noted that the country’s relative peace and stability have led to some improvements in the overall food security situation, with the upcoming lean season expected to be slightly less severe compared to last year’s, when 6.9 million people were in “crisis” or worse food insecurity.

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