21 June 2017

South Sudan: Famine is Over, but Situation Remains Dire - UN

Photo: Daily Monitor
Refugee camp.

UN aid agencies have downgraded the severity of famine that had been gripping parts of South Sudan. But there are still higher than ever levels of extreme hunger across the country.

The situation in South Sudan would appear to have improved. "The accepted technical definition of famine no longer applies in former Unity State's Leer and Mayanditcounties where famine was declared in February," said a joint statement released Wednesday by the UN children's agency UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

Famine is defined according to UN criteria called the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, or IPC scale. It is declared when a region has 20 percent of households facing a complete lack of food, 30 percent of the population is suffering from acute malnutrition and 1 person for every 5,000 dies each day.

While the official famine may be over, the situation remains precarious. "The crisis is not over. We are merely keeping people alive but far too many face extreme hunger on the edge of a cliff," said Dominique Burgeon, the FAO's director of emergencies.

Extreme hunger

The main concern is for people living in the country's east, bordering Ethiopia, in an area that used to be known as Jonglei state. It is believed that around 45,000 people here are facing famine-like conditions.

"The conflict-related displacement of over 200,000 people from northern, central, and eastern former Jonglei has severely disrupted livelihoods and access to social services, thus severely undermining food security in the state," UN aid agencies said.

"The number of people struggling to find enough food each day has grown to 6 million - up from 4.9 million in February - and is the highest level of food insecurity ever experienced in South Sudan," the statement added.

The human cost of civil war

The humanitarian crisis across the country has been directly caused by the civil war that began in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his rival and former deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup against him.

The violence was originally between ethnic Dinka Kiir supporters and ethnic Nuer supporters of Machar. But it has since engulfed other areas of the country and involved other ethnic groups. It has prevented many farmers from planting and harvesting their crops and hyperinflation, which reached more than 800 percent last year, has meant that the cost of imported food is unaffordable for most people.

This situation has since triggered Africa's largest refugee crisis, with nearly 2 million people having fled abroad.

Meanwhile, there would appear to be no prospect of peace in sight. Further, the UN has warned that acts of genocide and ethnic cleaning may have been carried out.

More on This

The Nation No Longer in Famine, but Situation Critical

South Sudan no longer has areas in famine, but almost two million people are on the brink of starvation, the country's… Read more »

See What Everyone is Watching

Copyright © 2017 Deutsche Welle. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 800 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.