50,000 Children Face Starvation in South Sudan, Say Relief Agencies
50,000 South Sudanese children may die unless they receive urgent life-saving food, and over the next few months, a million children will require treatment for acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF.
2.5 million people are predicted to be at crisis or emergency levels of food shortage from January to March 2015, according to the IPC, a global food security forum. They are yet to release predicted figures for May, when the lean months in South Sudan usually peak.
Aid agencies are saying that a devastating nutrition crisis can only be avoided if the international community takes immediate action. Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan has called for “concerned citizens, their governments, the private sector, and philanthropic organisations” to “increase support for the humanitarian response on the ground,” in order to avert a “looming disaster”.
In 2011 the southern Sudanese voted by 98.8% to split Sudan in two and form the world’s newest nation. Yet in December last year the country descended into civil war when President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused his vice-president, Riek Machar, a member of the Neur tribe, of plotting a coup, which Machar denied. The political power struggle resulted in violent clashes between Dinka and Neur army factions, and the fighting soon spread across the country, leading to widespread ethnic violence.
As a result, around 1.7 million people are now internally displaced, having been forced to flee their homes during the eight month civil war in which tens of thousands are thought to have died. Gareth Hughes, a humanitarian coordinator for one of the leading relief and development charities in the area, says that a further half a million have left the country altogether, and are living in refugee camps in Ethiopia and northern Uganda.
Hughes, who worked in South Sudan between 2012 and 2014, told Newsweek Europe that his organisation and other aid agencies have so far been able to delay the onset of widespread famine with large injections of aid, aided by a heavy rainfall which has allowed some crop growth. Yet although the food situation has slightly improved, he added that it is “already at an appalling level”. Organisations agree that the situation is set to deteriorate in the new year.