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Conflict, climate shocks push over 7 million South Sudanese on brink of extreme hunger

United Nations agencies on Thursday warned an estimated 7.76 million South Sudanese are on the brink of facing extreme hunger, malnutrition in 2023 due to combination of conflicts and climatic shocks.

The United Nations Food Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a joint statement that hunger and malnutrition are on the rise across the flood, drought, and conflict-affected areas of South Sudan.

“We’ve been in famine prevention mode all year and have staved off the worst outcomes, but this is not enough,” said Makena Walker, Acting Country Director for WFP in South Sudan during the launch of the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)  report in Juba.

“South Sudan is on the frontlines of the climate crisis and day in, day out families are losing their homes, cattle, fields and hope to extreme weather. Without humanitarian food assistance, millions more will find themselves in an increasingly dire situation and unable to provide even the most basic food for their families,” said Walker.

The statement noted that acute food insecurity is most likely to be experienced during the April-July 2023 lean season.

It disclosed that 1.4 million children will be malnourished, adding that communities are likely to face starvation if humanitarian assistance is not sustained, and climate adaptation measures are not scaled-up.

It also said that the proportion of people facing high- levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 [crisis] or above) and malnourishment is at the highest level ever, surpassing levels seen even during the conflict in 2013 and 2016.

“The decline in food security and high prevalence of malnutrition is linked to a combination of conflict, poor macro-economic conditions, extreme climate events, and spiraling costs of food and fuel. At the same time, there has been a decline in funding for humanitarian programmes despite the steady rise in humanitarian needs,” it said.

“Livelihood support is particularly needed to facilitate South Sudan’s self-reliance in food production. We know the potential exists as about 840 000 tonnes of cereals were produced in 2021, during a difficult year with climate change, floods, conflict and other factors,” said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan. 

Malo revealed that urgent investment in rural livelihoods is needed to increase production in order to reduce the current cereal deficit of 541 000 tonnes in the country.

 “Over the past three years, floods have dramatically affected an increasing number of people across South Sudan,” said Jesper Moller, UNICEF Acting Representative in South Sudan.

“Among those impacted, we find a growing number of food-insecure and malnourished children, which the international community cannot ignore. To effectively protect children from the effects of climate change, we must ensure we reach the most vulnerable children with an essential package of multi-sectoral social service interventions,” added Moller.

Sara Beysolow Nyanti, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, said that the IPC report is the product of months of data collection and analysis, with participation from Government, UN agencies, NGOs, and other partners.

Nyanti noted that quality data like this is critical to formulating humanitarian response plans to help meet the needs of people in the country, and these figures show the people of South Sudan need support more than ever.

“It’s vital we receive commitments from donors for 2023 so we can prevent a worsening of the humanitarian situation across the country,” she said.

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