Voice of America (Washington, DC)

South Sudan President Launches Famine-Averting Initiative

Juba — South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on Wednesday launched a home-grown initiative aimed at averting famine in the country where four months of violence have displaced more than a million people and prevented farmers from planting crops.

The new National Food Security Council (NFSC) is funded by $22 million from the European Union. The council was created to make South Sudanese farmers and fishermen more productive so that no one in the country goes hungry, Kiir said as he launched the organization.

The president said the newly created council will provide farmers with loans to help them transport their harvests to markets for sale.

"Experts estimate that up to 300 metric tons of fish could be harvested on a sustainable basis from its share of the River Nile swamps and tributaries," Kiir said. "South Sudan is a country rich in resources and "the people... are among the favored with the potential of feeding themselves and supplying the world market."

Spurring food production in South Sudan

During the launch the president announced another idea that he said will spur food production: a ban on card and domino games during the planting season.

"When people go and play, you don't produce and this non-production of everything has actually intensified the relief food syndrome," he said.

Many NGOs, U.N. agencies and even officials from foreign governments have warned that South Sudan is on the brink of famine, with some symptoms of severe malnutrition already evident in children.

None of those agencies have pointed to leisure activities as a reason for severe food shortages. Rather, they have said, it's the fighting that has racked South Sudan since mid-December that is to blame.

Most states in South Sudan have not become embroiled in the country's conflict, but more than a million South Sudanese who have fled their homes in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states do not believe it is safe to return to their villages or farms.

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