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Source: Save The Children

The world’s newest country, South Sudan, is facing its worst ever hunger crisis as it marks its 10 year anniversary, with 7.2 million people, including millions of children, on the brink of or in famine, Save the Children said today.

The number of people in grave danger of starvation has risen by 50% compared to the same season a decade ago with figures released in 2012 showing 40% of the population was experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity of IPC 3 or higher at that time.

Save the Children is warning this situation will most likely deteriorate in coming months due to ongoing violence, high food prices, climatic shocks, and barriers to humanitarian access, unless urgent national and global action is taken. An estimated 1.4 million children are already suffering from acute malnutrition.

The organisation is calling on the government of South Sudan to curb communal violence and fast track the implementation of the peace deal, to address some of the root causes of the hunger crisis and enable children to look towards a brighter future.

The current total hunger figure includes 2.47 million people at emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC 4) and 31,000 people who facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity (IPC 5) or famine-like conditions. Save the Children is particularly concerned for the wellbeing of some 1.4 million children who are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition this year, the highest figure since 2013. Malnutrition can cause stunting, impede mental and physical development, increase the risk of developing other illnesses, and ultimately cause death.

The warning comes after Save the Children said last month that more than 5.7 million children under five are on the brink of starvation across the globe, with the world is facing the biggest global hunger crisis of the 21st century.

Mary*, 36, is the mother of Aluel*, 1, from Akobo county in South Sudan. Aluel has suffered from severe hunger since birth, which has impacted Mary’s mental health. Save the Children is now supporting them both. Mary said:

“I came to Akobo to receive medical services for my child, who has been sick for over a year now. Where we are, we are starving because there was flooding that destroyed our crops and left us hungry and dependent on aid. Now there are no cows because they were raided by neighbouring communities. Even if someone’s child is sick or hungry, there is nothing we can feed them. There is completely nothing.”

Across South Sudan, Save the Children is treating thousands of children with acute malnutrition, with staff reporting increasing numbers of babies arriving at clinics in life-threatening situations. In the past three months alone, Save the Children diagnosed 7,342 infants with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) cases, of which 4,219 infants were admitted into hospital for treatment.

Rama Hansraj, Save the Children’s Country Director in South Sudan, said:

“The birth of a new nation is often a time of hope and joy for many of the people living within it, but sadly this promise is yet to deliver for South Sudan. In so many ways, things have gotten worse for children since the country was formed in 2011. Civil war and climate shocks have all played their part in pushing South Sudan away from where it should be, ten years on.

“South Sudan is not just a story of conflict. It is a story of generations of deliberate displacement of civilians, destruction of livelihoods, and land occupation, compounded by climate shocks like unprecedented flooding and locust plagues, and a story of COVID-19 and its obliteration of already-vulnerable social infrastructure. It’s only by addressing the root causes of this crisis, as well as mitigating the devastating effects of the pandemic, will we be able to prevent a generation succumbing to the immediate and long-term consequences of malnutrition.”

Save the Children is calling on donor governments to fully fund the joint-agency Humanitarian Response Plan for South Sudan, and invest in social protection schemes and services for children. To truly put an end to hunger in South Sudan, the international community must address the root causes of the acute food insecurity, including finding a sustainable solution to the conflict, tackling global changing climate, and building more resilient communities.

Save the Children has been working with and for children, their families and communities in South Sudan since 1991. We provide children with access to education, healthcare and nutrition support, and families with food security and livelihoods assistance. Our child protection programmes support vulnerable children including unaccompanied and separated children and those affected by violence, as well as advocating for children’s rights at national, state and community levels.

In response to the current crisis, Save the Children is supporting hunger-affected households and livelihoods with cash transfers, promoting positive nutrition practices and infant and young child feeding practices, and distributing emergency food assistance. We are also providing breastfeeding support to new mothers, deworming and Vitamin A supplementation, and nutrition campaign and promotional activities on better feeding practices.

*Names changed to protect identities

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MIL OSI