This will be South Sudan’s hungriest year ever, experts say
Nyayiar Kuol hugged her critically emaciated 1-year-old daughter as they rode for 16 hours on a packed boat to the closest hospital to their remote South Sudan home.
She had been feeding her four children just once a day for months, unable to crop due to devastating floods and with little food support from the government or charity organizations. She is concerned that her daughter may die.
“I don’t want to consider what may happen,” she said.
Kuol, 36, sat in a hospital bed in Old Fangak town in Jonglei state’s hard-hit Jonglei state, trying to comfort her daughter while condemning the government for not doing more.
South Sudan created a coalition government almost two years ago as part of a shaky peace agreement to end a five-year civil conflict that drove sections of the nation into starvation, but Kuol claims little has changed.
“If this nation were really at peace, there would be no hunger,” she remarked.
According to relief organizations, more people in South Sudan will go hungry this year than ever before. This is due to the worst floods in 60 years, as well as violence and slow implementation of the peace accord, which has left parts of the nation without essential amenities.
“2021 was the worst year since independence in our country’s ten-year history, and 2022 will be much worse.” “Food insecurity is at an all-time high,” said Matthew Hollingworth, World Food Program national representative in South Sudan.
While the latest food security report from aid organizations and the government has yet to be released, several aid officials familiar with the situation said preliminary data show that nearly 8.5 million people — out of the country 12 million — will face severe hunger, an increase of 8% from last year.
Because they were not allowed to talk to the media, the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to humanitarian authorities, the worst-affected Fangak county is now as bad as the worst-affected Pibor county was this time last year when global food security experts predicted that 30,000 Pibor inhabitants were likely to starve to death.
During visits to three South Sudan states in December, several residents and government officials told The Associated Press that people were starving to death.
According to Jeremiah Gatmai, the government’s humanitarian agent in Old Fangak, a woman and her kid died in Pulpham hamlet in October due to a lack of food.
According to the UN, floods have harmed about 1 million people throughout South Sudan. Last year, the UN had to cut food assistance in most regions by half due to budget shortages, impacting around 3 million people.
Floods have prohibited people from cultivating for two years and destroyed more than 250,000 animals in Jonglei state alone, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
Some relocated households in Old Fangak said that ground-up water lilies were their primary source of nutrition on a daily basis. “We eat once a day in the morning and then go to bed hungry,” Nyaluak Chuol said. The 20-year-old, like many others, had her fishing net washed away in the floodwaters. She hires a guy to fish for her when she has enough money.
Many Jonglei inhabitants have fled to neighboring states in search of food and shelter, but have found little relief. 3,000 displaced individuals were crowded into abandoned houses or huddled beneath trees in Malakal town, with nothing to eat.
Tut Jaknyang told the Associated Press, “We’re eating leaves and look like skeletons.” He claimed he had only received food help once since escaping flooding in Jonglei in July. According to him and others, a bag of donated rice had to be split among 20 individuals.
According to Christina Dak, an International Medical Corps health worker, the number of malnourished children arriving into the medical clinic in Wau Shilluk, north of Malakal, increased from 10 between January and July to 26 between August and December.
While flooding is the primary cause of famine, it is exacerbated by government gridlock as the country’s two major political parties attempt to share power.
Local authorities in Malakal who support the opposition accused members of longstanding President Salva Kiir’s party of undermining them by blocking political appointments and refusing to let them remove corrupt employees, making it difficult to rule and deliver services.
“We’re not functioning as a unified front. “No one is watching out for the citizens,” claimed Byinj Erngst, Upper Nile state’s health minister.
Fighting between government and opposition-aligned militias in the country’s breadbasket in the southwest adds to political tensions.
According to government spokesperson Michael Makuei, certain support, including medical services, is still available, but national authorities can only provide so much assistance. “If the floods have devastated crops, what can the government do?” he said.
Observers’ dissatisfaction is rising. In a statement to the United Nations Security Council in December, the head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, warned of the country’s peace pact collapsing if all parties did not renew their political will.
Jill Seaman, who works with South Sudan Medical Relief in Old Fangak and has over 30 years of local expertise, concluded, “There are no resources, no harvest, and no cows, so there’s nowhere to search for food.”