Despite a slight improvement in South Sudan's food security since June, more than half the population -- some 6.35 million people -- do not know where their next meal will come from.
According to an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) update, 54 per cent of people in South Sudan are still severely food insecure. The update was released jointly by the South Sudan government, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Food Programme,
The report released last week Wednesday estimates that 10,000 people are currently in IPC Phase 5 and are facing an extreme lack of food, while about 1.7 million are in IPC Phase 4 and another 4.6 million people are experiencing IPC Phase 3 levels of acute food insecurity.
While the Greater Upper Nile region continues to be the most food insecure, followed by the Greater Bahr el Ghazal region, those in IPC Phase 5 are in Yirol East of the former Lakes state and will need urgent humanitarian support.
Although the food security situation is severe, the recent improvement could be attributed to the Revitalized Peace Agreement, signed in September 2018. The decrease in armed conflict has encouraged the voluntary return of farmers, increasing access to livelihoods and improving markets. A more stable political environment has also allowed for improved delivery of humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable populations.
"With political stability and sustained peace, South Sudan could quickly recover from the crisis and boost its food production. The IPC findings are still alarming, but they also show that the peace agreement is bearing dividends and its full implementation is of utmost significance for the country," said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan.
"FAO is working with returning farmers to assist them resettle, build their livelihoods and produce their own food," Mr Malo added.
On malnutrition, the report says acute malnutrition levels among children under five years of age have increased significantly, from 13 per cent in 2018 to 16 per cent in 2019 -- which is above the emergency threshold of 15 per cent. It is estimated that 1.3 million children will be affected by acute malnutrition in 2020.
The food security situation in South Sudan is expected to improve from now and towards the end of the year, as seasonal harvests become available.
However, the UN agencies estimate that 4.5 million people will still face Crisis, Emergency or Catastrophe levels of food insecurity and will need assistance. South Sudan's humanitarian crisis has been ranked among the worst in the world by the UN.