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Sudan Tribune

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One in three South Sudanese will need food aid in 2012 – UN

January 8, 2012 (BOR) – South Sudan’s first full year as an independent nation will be characterised by hunger if urgent action is not taken to address the consequences of poor harvests, price hikes, conflict and displacement, a UN report says.

IDPs wait to receive food rations and other items from the WFP at a distribution point in Pibor town, Jonglei 21 March 2009 - (photo UN)
IDPs wait to receive food rations and other items from the WFP at a distribution point in Pibor town, Jonglei 21 March 2009 – (photo UN)
A UN report, published on Wednesday, found that over half of South Sudan’s eight million population will be food insecure and over one third will require food aid in 2012.

The joint report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) found that the number of food insecure people will increase by over 40% to 4.7 million, up from 3.3 million.

The number of severely food insecure people has also increased from 900,000 to 1 million, the report carried out in October and November discovered.

Commissioned by the government of South Sudan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the research was carried out before a peak in violence in Jonglei and, more recently Unity and Warrap States.

Cattle raids have affected 140,000 in Jonglei since December, while in Warrap 3,000 people were displaced and 40,000 people have had their livelihoods affected after their livestock was stolen in January.

If such incidents continue to cause major population displacements and food prices keep rising, the report estimates that the number of people who are severely food-insecure could double.

In the seven months since South Sudan’s independence the country has had to cope with high inflation and increasing food prices, and an increased demand on resources caused in part by the large number of returnees from North Sudan.

Rebellions, cattle raiding, and banditry in meany areas have meant that many areas have not produced as much they could.

All these factors have led to a shortfall in cereal production. The new nation would be in a better position to cope with the stress on resources were it not for the grain scandal that saw billions of dollars disappear into fake business that were supposed to buy grain and build stores in case of emergencies.

In an interview with the BBC broadcast on Tuesday, the UN chief for South Sudan that the government must back up its words on corruption with action.

“This is a rapidly approaching crisis that the world cannot afford to ignore,” said Chris Nikoi, WFP’s country director in South Sudan. “The situation is dire, and we are doing everything we can to be ready, but we are running out of time.”

“We need to enable households to first have quick access to safe, nutritious food and other basic necessities, but in order to restore and sustain food and nutrition security in South Sudan, we need to break the cycle of increasing hunger and poverty. We can do this by helping people to resume the farming, livestock and other activities that support their livelihoods,” said George Okeh, the head of the FAO’s South Sudan office.

National cereal production in South Sudan dropped 19% between 2010 and 2011, falling to 25% less than the average over the last five years. In 2012, the assessment found, there will be a cereal deficit of more than 470,000 metric tons – ‘almost half of the country’s total consumption requirements for the year’.

South Sudan’s lack of access of international markets has meant that the deficit has not corrected itself, according to the report. The situation has been compounded by the closure of the border with North Sudan since independence as various disputes remain unresolved.

What food is imported into South Sudan struggles to reach or be affordable to those who need it due to poor infrastructure and high fuel prices.

FOOD AID IN 2012

In 2012 WFP is aiming to provide 150,000 metric tons of food to 2.7 million vulnerable people, focusing on ‘children and nursing mothers, internally displaced people, refugees and returnees’, the report said.

However, the report said WFP and its partners are preparing for if the situation in South Sudan deteriorates further. The report said the UN was ready to try and raise more than the $160 million that was initially planned for this year’s operation.

(ST)