JUBA, March 11, 2020 – More than 70 percent of the South Sudanese population will struggle to survive the peak of the lean season this year as the country grapples with unprecedented levels of food insecurity caused by conflict, climate shocks, covid, and rising costs, warned the United Nations World Food Programme today.

A malnourished child is assessed at a nutrition clinic in Fangak county, South Sudan.

While global attention remains fixated on Ukraine, a hidden hunger emergency is engulfing South Sudan with about 8.3 million people in South Sudan – including refugees – set to face extreme hunger in the coming months as the 2022 lean season peaks, food becomes scarce and provisions are depleted, according to the latest findings  published  in  the 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Particularly at risk are tens of thousands of South Sudanese who are already severely hungry following successive and continuous shocks and could starve without food assistance.

South Sudan forms part of a ‘ring of fire’ encircling the globe where climate shocks, conflict, covid-19, and rising costs are driving millions closer to starvation. The impact of the climate crisis and ongoing conflict have led to large scale displacement, livelihoods losses, the destruction of arable land and crops as well as rising food prices — threatening the survival of communities living in some of the most isolated areas in the States of Jonglei, Lakes, Unity and Warrap.

“The extent and depth of this crisis is unsettling. We’re seeing people across the country have exhausted all their available options to make ends meet and now they are left with nothing,” said Adeyinka Badejo, Deputy Country Director of the World Food Programme in South Sudan.

Turning the tide on hunger

While providing critical food and nutrition assistance to meet the immediate needs of populations at risk, WFP simultaneously implements resilience building activities to help these communities cope with sudden shocks without losing all their productive assets.   

“Given the magnitude of this crisis, our resources only allow us to reach only some of those most in need with the bare minimum to survive, which is not nearly enough to allow communities to get back on their feet. WFP is working tirelessly not only to cater for these immediate needs, but also to support communities to restore their own resilience and be better prepared to face new shocks,” said Badejo.

In 2021, WFP reached 5.9 million people with food and nutrition assistance, including more than 730,000 people in South Sudan who benefited from livelihoods activities.

In Greater Jonglei and Unity States, where unprecedented floods and localized conflict prevented people from reaching their cultivated fields, WFP supported people with cash assistance to buy food and other basic needs, provided communities with tools to protect and maintain critical assets, and trained young people in various vocational activities, including post-harvest management.

To help communities prepare for the impact of floods, WFP built dykes in areas at risk such as Bor in Jonglei State, where constructing an 18km dyke enabled thousands of displaced families to return to their homes. Similarly, WFP began restoring a key roadway submerged following the devastating floods that hit Bentiu in Unity State, where many people remain displaced.

In areas not affected by floodwaters, WFP worked with community members to clear and cultivate more than 40,000 acres of land to grow food, thereby enabling smallholder farmers to be more self-reliant throughout the year. 

“Investing in resilience is an important step to help communities find their way out of poverty and hunger. While we stand on their side to address their most immediate challenges, we must also work closely with the Government and other development partners to seek longer-term solutions to some of the chronic problems that South Sudan faces – addressing entrenched inequity and isolation and restoring conditions for peace and stability” said Badejo.

Contributing to alleviate South Sudan’s hunger crisis in an integrated and sustainable way is a significant challenge. WFP faces a major funding shortfall of US$ 526 million dollars for the next six months to cover its crisis response, resilience building and longer-term development programmes in the country.

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.