Millions face hunger pangs after WFP suspends humanitarian aid in South Sudan

Millions face hunger pangs after WFP suspends humanitarian aid in South Sudan
Close to 2 million people are exposed to the risk of starvation if WFP fail to get funds for relief food. [Photo: Courtesy]

Almost one-third of the severely food insecure people in South Sudan would be left without humanitarian aid, warned the World Food Programme (WFP).

The humanitarian agency is currently facing funding challenges that put close to 1.7 million people at risk of starvation.

The suspension of aid comes at the worst possible time for the people of South Sudan as the country faces a year of unprecedented hunger. Over 60 per cent of the population are grappling with severe food insecurity during the lean season, fuelled by continuing conflict, severe flooding, localized drought, and soaring food prices exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine.

“We are extremely concerned about the impact of the funding cuts on children, women and men who will not have enough to eat during the lean season. These families have completely exhausted their coping strategies. They need immediate humanitarian assistance to put food on the table in the short-term and to rebuild their livelihoods and resilience to cope with future shocks,” said Adeyinka Badejo, Acting Country Director of the World Food Programme in South Sudan.

WFP had exhausted all options before suspending food assistance, including halving rations in 2021, leaving families in need with less food to eat. These latest reductions to assistance will also impact 178,000 schoolchildren who will no longer receive daily school meals – a crucial safety net that helps keep South Sudanese children in school to learn and grow.

A WFP food ration includes cereals, pulses, vegetable oil and salt.

According to the acting country director, the WFP would need $426 million to reach six million people who are food insecure by 2022.

WFP plans to reach six million food-insecure people in South Sudan this year with food assistance, nutrition support, cash stipends, and livelihood opportunities to help communities build resilience, according to Badejo, with the most vulnerable and conflict-affected women, children, and the elderly receiving priority.

“WFP is prioritizing its limited food assistance to reach 4.5 million people struggling with severe hunger across 52 counties in South Sudan, including 87,000 people in eight counties already experiencing catastrophic hunger and living in famine-like conditions”

South Sudan’s food insecurity is at an all-time high in 2022. According to the most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) assessment, 7.74 million people would experience severe acute hunger during the lean season, which runs from June to August, and 1.4 million children will be critically malnourished.