April 2014: South Sudan is currently facing its most severe crisis since its birth 2 years ago. In fact, what we are seeing now is a crisis within a crisis. UN agencies have recently warned that almost 4 million people are facing severe food shortages, with the possibility of famine occurring in the coming months now looking increasingly likely.
In response to this, Plan International is currently scaling up its response to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable and treat the significant rise in severe malnutrition in children aged under 5.
Half of population food insecure
While South Sudan experiences cyclical food insecurity, with many each year relying on food aid to survive the lean months, this year a combination of deadly violence, displacement and disruption of trade have left over half the country’s population food insecure.
Indeed, the current cycle of violence has not abated and despite attempts to broker peace deals, children and their families are still fleeing their homes in large numbers.
Too late for crops
The many thousands who were displaced from their land and farms as a result of the violence in 2013 and the beginning of this year, are yet to return to their homes and are still living in makeshift camps. While those who survived the violence and made it to the relative safety of camps have been receiving food aid, their chance to plant crops for their families has all but been lost.
As the rainy season approaches, those who normally would have planted in time for this important season are displaced, a figure which has been put currently at 800,000 people.
Indeed, it would likely be that these displaced and those communities left behind, would not only need aid in the form of seeds, but also tools and assistance with rehabilitating the already fragile agricultural land. Their livelihoods have been destroyed and it will take more than food aid to assist in rebuilding and strengthening their lives.
Race to provide food aid
For humanitarian agencies such as Plan International in South Sudan, the race is now on to provide food aid and assistance to displaced and conflict-affected communities before the start of the rainy season.
South Sudan is one of the logistically most difficult to access terrains in the Horn of Africa, with little in the way of tarmac roads or indeed landing strips for planes laden with aid.
We know already the damage the recent violence has done to families and in particular the trauma visited on children. The international community needs to act now to ensure aid reaches those in need, in addition to promoting peace and dialogue, in order to prevent this crisis turning into a disaster for these hundreds of thousands of families.