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Abuk Garang Garang and her children eats vegetables she bought from the local market together with sorghum after receiving cash and cereal distribution. More than 3 million people have received assistance as part of WFP’s lean season response in 2023 WF1778533: Abuk Garang Garang uses cash she received from the distribution site to buy some basic items in a local market. Cash gives beneficiaries the choice to choose what to buy. It also injects money into local the economy thereby powering local trade. WF1778529: Abuk Garang Garang feeds her youngest child Deng Ngor in her home. As part of the response, Children below the age of 5 years and pregnant and lactating women are also receiving life-saving nutrition assistance throughout the year. Photo Credit: All photos should be credited WFP.

Feeding the hungry as food insecurity bites: How the European Union is powering WFP to cushion people from hunger in South Sudan

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By Musa Mahadi

Abuk Garang is in cheerful mood with a huge smile plastered across her face, her children are in similarly high spirits and playing together outside their small house in Halbul, Aweil East.

The reason for the joy spreading through the household is the knowledge that today they’ll be able to eat two full meals as Abuk, a 38-year-old farmer and mother, is preparing to head out the door to a food and cash distribution. While it may not seem like a big deal, two meals at this time of the year is more or less a luxury in Abuk’s village which struggles with climate extremes throughout the year that severely impact food security.

“I am staying alone with my children and earn a living by cultivating on people’s farms. But this year there is drought that’s affecting our crops so I don’t know what harvest I will get,” she explains.

This year Abuk was registered to receive food and cash assistance throughout the lean season in Aweil for the first time as her crops failed and she found herself without the resources to feed herself and her family. More and more families are finding themselves in the same positions and in need of humanitarian assistance as a toxic combination of conflict, the climate crisis, and soaring food costs are driving them toward hunger.

In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, the peak of the lean season falls around July and August when heavy rains can damage roads and cut-off entire communities or supply routes. Often during this time the cost of staple foods such as sorghum, maize, and lentils is high, even more so this year after fighting in Sudan caused major disruptions to cross border trade.

During the lean season, many families have only one meal in a day while others may not even be able to afford that.

“In July household food stocks are already depleted,” says Yolanda Ile WFP’s Deputy Head of Programme in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state. “Food assistance remains a lifeline for their survival.”

In 2023, the European Union, through the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Department (ECHO), provided EUR 11 million (USD 11.8 million) to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to help save lives through the lean season in South Sudan by mitigating the impact of food insecurity with supplementary food and cash assistance.

In Halbul, Abuk lines up to receive her entitlements. First, she’s provided with cash which she can utilize as she wishes and then she receives her cereals, today it’s sorghum.

Cash assistance is increasingly becoming a preferred method of humanitarian assistance, economically empowering families, particularly women, and supporting local markets and trade which benefits the entire community.

After taking her sorghum home, Abuk heads straight to the market to buy some of her family’s favourite foods. Today she’ll make posho, locally known as asida, with korofo, a sauce made from fresh greens and groundnut paste, two ingredients she’ll buy from the market.

Having the freedom to buy what she needs, when she needs it, has allowed Abuk to concentrate on her upcoming harvest, trying to salvage what she can despite the conditions. To support her with this, WFP has provided Abuk and her fellow community members with training on how to improve agronomic practices and implement climate smart agricultures, all of which helps increase vegetable production.

“This assistance and training has really helped me a lot and without it life would be very difficult,” Abuk says as she calls Ngor, her first born son, to organize plates for their meal. “If I have a good harvest, I will support another person that needs help. I have been helped a lot and I’d like to do the same for another person.”

More than 3 million people have received assistance as part of WFP’s lean season response in 2023, including more than 200,000 across Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Children below the age of 5 years and pregnant and lactating women are also receiving life-saving nutrition assistance throughout the year.

South Sudan is facing one of its hungriest years since independence, with some 7.76 million people in crisis or worse levels of hunger (IPC3+), meaning food assistance remains a lifeline for many families across the country. The assistance is only made possible thanks to support from generous donors like the European Union.

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