Juba — Recurring violence in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area in the eastern part of South Sudan has already displaced more than 60,000 people and is crippling the food security and livelihoods of growing numbers of people, two United Nations agencies warned today.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are concerned that the violence has halted farming, which will slash harvests for the rest of the year as well as depriving communities of livestock as a source of nutrition.
In addition, the violence has led to the looting of humanitarian food assistance that was meant to support the most vulnerable people.
"At the height of the main planting season, insecurity is preventing farmers from going to their fields to cultivate food crops and livestock keepers are not able to follow their traditional migratory patterns to graze their animals," said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan.
"When cattle raiding is part of the violence, communities lose animals essential to their livelihoods and cannot participate in productive agricultural activities, leading to greater food security," he added.
"We simply cannot replace the calories milk gives to children when livestock is taken and a year's worth of milk is lost, and we barely have sufficient resources to meet current needs," said Matthew Hollingworth, WFP Country Director in South Sudan. "There will be no victors in this conflict: this violence risks causing long-term calamitous food insecurity across this region, for the rest of this year."
More than 430 metric tons of WFP food supplies have been lost from the looting of WFP and partner warehouses in the affected areas.
According to an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report, the Pibor Administrative Area now faces emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 4). Earlier this year, three Jonglei counties had people who were classified in a "catastrophe" level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 5).
Their food security was only expected to improve if consistent humanitarian food assistance could be provided. But this has proved impossible because of the fighting in the area.
The violence in eastern South Sudan is adding to the number of hungry people just when the country is currently in its annual lean season with at least 6.5 million people - more than half the entire population - facing severe acute food insecurity and in need of humanitarian assistance.