UN agencies warn of food insecurity spike in South Sudan

JUBA, South Sudan -- Three United Nations agencies have called for ramping up humanitarian assistance to stave off a looming hunger and enhance resilience in South Sudan, warning that food insecurity is likely to rise by 7 percent in the coming months.

According to a new report on food security by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN children's fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP), greater humanitarian assistance and support are needed immediately to save lives and prevent the collapse of livelihoods in the worst-affected locations across South Sudan.

"FAO is concerned by the rising number of food-insecure people driven by the additional burden of heavy flooding that has occurred in the country for the last three consecutive years," Meshack Malo, FAO representative in South Sudan, said in a report released on Saturday.

According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, climatic shocks such as floods and droughts, conflict, economic downturn, displacement and disrupted livelihoods are driving the worsening trend in food security, with 7.74 million people, or 62.7 percent of the population, across the country, which faces a crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity during the lean season between April and July.

The report said the most affected states are Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, Lakes, Eastern Equatoria (Kapoeta East) and Warrap. More than 80 percent of the entire food-insecure population are from within these states.

Malo said more food needs to be produced to help tackle acute hunger, noting that the FAO will continue to provide seeds, tools and fishing kits to people in urgent need of assistance.

The IPC report shows that in 2022, about 1.34 million children under five years are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition.

Jesper Moller, acting UNICEF representative in South Sudan, said as access to those in need improves due to the peace process, the UN agencies have been making significant progress in treating severe malnutrition in children, but floods and other climate-related shocks leave more children vulnerable. "

More than 90 percent of children under five put into therapeutic feeding programs fully recover, and yet funding for this life-saving response is increasingly a challenge," he said.

According to the report, three consecutive years of increased flooding, the loss of livelihoods, destruction of farmland and livestock and subsequent displacement have deepened the dire hunger crisis, engulfing South Sudan and pushing millions into abject poverty as food becomes scarce and millions struggle to survive.