Country Warns Food Crisis Developing Into Famine

Published October 20, 2011

Written by Ngor Arol Garang, Published in on 6 October 2011

Juba — South Sudan said Wednesday that the ongoing food crisis in the newly independent country could develop into a famine if no immediate remedies are taken.

Joseph Lual Acuil, South Sudan’s minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management told a weekly media briefing in Juba that “lower harvests due to unreliable rains coupled with the rising food prices world-wide, have created a severe food shortage leaving more than 1.3 million in need of food aid.”

As of September 26 the UN estimate that 342,000 South Sudanese have returned to the country since last autumn, many of whom require food aid. In July South Sudan seceded from the north following a referendum in January.

The minister said that the greater Equatoria region had been the worst effected by the late rains this year. Insecurity, returnees from north Sudan and newly displaced people from the contested region Abyei and Jonglei state have all added to the food crisis.

Acuil said his ministry has attempted to address the problem by sending aid to Agok in Northern Bahr el Ghazal where many of the 110,000 people displaced from Abyei and its surrounding areas are residing.

“I just spoken to the chief administrator and he confirmed arrival of some of the trucks”, the minister said.

Flash floods in Agok in early September “compounded an already difficult situation for people displaced by conflict in Abyei in May this year” a recent UN report said.

“Food insecurity of the affected households continued to be of concern as the people displaced from Abyei are largely dependent on food assistance” the September 26 report found.

The minister also said that food aid was also being sent to Uror county in Jonglei State, where fighting in August killed around 600 people and displaced over 20,000, the UN estimates.

Minister Acuil described the food gap as more serious than normal humanitarian reports issued in South Sudan about people habitually defined as “food insecure.”

“The people at ‘severe risk’ may either not have enough food to eat, enough money to buy seed to plant or enough money to buy food. The prices are increasing almost every hour. I am in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal, nobody can get food at eleven o’clock in the morning because people queue up at the restaurant and other local hotels for food”, the minister added.

In many parts of the Republic of South Sudan, he said, food prices have gone up due drought and the closure of supply routes with north Sudan after partition. The situation is especially bad in the areas closest to the border with Sudan.

An agreement between North and South Sudan to create ten points for trade and for people to move between the two countries has yet to be implemented.

Minister Acuil said his government was working with donors to invest in irrigation systems to increase crop production.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent a looming humanitarian and food crisis in this country”, said Acuil.

He added that more than 11,000 people returning to South Sudan are in Renk awaiting transportation, explaining that local resources have been overstretched.

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