With Tens of Thousands Facing Starvation, Famine Is Declared in Parts of South Sudan

One million more are “on the brink” of famine

South Sudan
This crop near Kagwada, South Sudan was destroyed first by armed rebels, then by roaming cattle who wiped it clean. South Sudan now faces a humanitarian crisis in the form of a famine. UNMISS

The people of South Sudan have faced an escalating humanitarian crisis since the nation erupted into civil war in 2013. Now, as The Washington Post’s Rael Ombuour reports, widespread hunger brought on by the conflict has triggered the United Nations and other organizations to formally declare a famine in two of South Sudan’s regions.

In a release on Monday, the UN wrote that at this time, 100,000 people face starvation in the country. Another one million are “on the brink” of famine, and 40 percent of the country's population—an estimated 4.9 million people—have an urgent need for food, nutrition and assistance with agriculture.

Up to 95 percent of South Sudan's citizens rely on either farming, fishing or herding to meet their food and income needs, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. But as an FAO representative tells The Guardian’s Ben Quinn, since the war, farmers have lost both livestock and farming tools as agriculture has been disrupted; people, meanwhile, are relying on scavenging for plants and fishing where they can. An increase in violence since the summer has further destroyed food production means, World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director Joyce Luma says in a statement.

Since the war began, up to 3.6 million people have been forced to become refugees and another 7.5 million—a full 62 percent of the population—now need protection and assistance of some kind, Justin Lynch reported for SFGate.com last week. 

As the BBC points out, the word “famine” is a technical term. In this case, it means that people have already started to starve to death in South Sudan and that certain criteria, like a death rate of more than two people per day per 100,000 people, have been met.

In a statement, the FAO, the WFP and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned that if nothing is done to stop the escalating crisis, the number of food insecure people in South Sudan is expected to rise to 5.5 million at the peak of the lean season in July.

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