More civilians are without food in more places than ever before in the history of South Sudan. An upsurge in fighting, lack of access and attacks on aid workers batters already food insecure communities.
“The UN’s deadly prediction of record numbers of hungry people in South Sudan is already unfolding from what I’m seeing,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), who is currently visiting the country.
Food security experts warned in February that unless aid and access were maintained, a record 7.1 million South Sudanese would face ‘crisis’ or worse ‘acute’ food insecurity between May and July. This is equivalent to two out of every three people in the young nation.
“From what I’ve witnessed and what displaced people tell me, a worst-case nightmare scenario is already on our doorstep. Widows tell me how their villages were burned to the ground, their husbands killed, and they are left with children they cannot feed nor protect,” said Egeland from Unity state. “I am outraged by how rape has become a common feature of the conflict,” Egeland said.
Since the February warning, large parts of South Sudan have seen an upsurge in violence. Renewed fighting in parts of Unity State in April displaced thousands of civilians. Thousands of others have been forced from their homes in Equatorial State.
Much of Unity and the Equatorial States have become humanitarian black holes, where access to communities is close to impossible. We still do not see the full consequences of the widespread and indiscriminate violence.
Aid agencies face a relentlessly hostile operating environment. More than a hundred aid workers have been killed since December 2013. In April alone, there were 80 reports of aid workers prevented from delivering aid. In May NRC was forced to suspend an emergency food distribution in Unity State because of active fighting in the state.
In areas too insecure to travel by road, the only option is to airdrop food to communities in need. “Food drops are desperate measures in desperate times. But without this lifeline, an already bleak situation would turn into a total catastrophe. With peace South Sudan with its vast fertile lands could easily be a breadbasket for Africa,” said Egeland.
“This is a brutal war carried out largely on civilians. Men with weapons and power are continuing a senseless conflict that end up costing lots of innocent lives including women and children,” said Egeland.