Food is not a luxury. It is a right of every human being. And yet it is a right that is being denied the people of South Sudan.
On February 20th, the UN declared a state of famine in South Sudan. This is not a declaration made lightly. A famine has an official definition based on distressing rates of malnutrition and mortality. In South Sudan, this translates to 50,000 children facing imminent death through starvation and disease, with hundreds of thousands more suffering acute malnourishment.
It is true, there has been less rain than expected but this is not the root cause of this famine. South Sudan is one of the most fertile countries in Africa. No, the reason for this famine is human failure – not by those suffering but by those leading.
Since 2013, South Sudan has been gripped by a civil war that has seen over a quarter of a million people die and millions more forced to flee. The violence led to farmers missing vital planting seasons, greatly reducing or eliminating crop yield in many areas. The effects of the conflict have been exacerbated by a wholly inadequate response from the international community. Despite famine having been predicted over a year ago, a fraction of the aid money requested by the United Nations has been provided to date. To further prolong the agony, in December the Security Council failed to agree on an embargo to stop the flow of arms into the country.
The people of South Sudan have been failed by their leaders and the international community. And to a large extent, their deteriorating situation has gone unnoticed. Conflicts and political storms closer to home have pushed this crisis into the shadows.
War Child noticed and refused to turn away.
Since April 2015, we have been working with local communities to stem the tide of the famine. Our programming in Eastern Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal States is designed to empower farmers to better withstand the challenges of unpredictable climate and political instability. We achieve this through improved and diversified crop production, as well as building up sustainable and more appropriate seed stocks, so farmers are no longer reliant on imports and hand-outs. We are also improving post harvest technologies, such as food processing and seed storage, allowing for ever greater self-sufficiency. These improvements have enabled farmers to greatly increase their family income and contribute to more sustainable food security for their communities.
So far it has worked, but with no end to the conflict in sight and food shortages spreading across the country, the next few months will be critical.
“The situation will get a lot worse before we see signs of improvement.” George Otim, our Country Director told us. “We are committed to doubling our efforts to support our communities but we cannot do it alone. We need Canadians to stand with us as they always have in the past.”
You can help by making a donation today. Just $25 could provide a farmer with better farm tools. Just $55 could allow that farm to switch to more robust crops.
The world is not paying attention to South Sudan as its people stand on the brink of disaster. You can be one of the few who looks their way.