Why South Sudan needs farmers, youth to face the hunger menace

Why South Sudan needs farmers, youth to face the hunger menace

A recent report on the humanitarian situation in South Sudan by UNICEF gives glaring statistics that call for a relook into how both state and non-state actors have been handling the situation.

Between January 1 and January 28, 2022, UNICEF and partners treated 44,443 children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) (54% girls) in therapeutic programs.

About 23 per cent of admissions were from Jonglei State, followed by Unity (17%), and NBGS (12%). Compared to the same period of 2020 and 2021, current admissions increased by 35 and 33 per cent respectively. The increment is reported in all states but is highest in Jonglei and Unity.

South Sudan gained Independence on July 9, 2011, but since then, the country continues to face many challenges due to on and off conflicts that have led to mass displacements, deteriorating economic conditions and a strain on already scarce resources; thus a worsening humanitarian situation in the country.

The continuing conflict in South Sudan, which began in December 2013, is having a devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of South Sudanese women, men and children, with the result that South Sudan is now one of the most food-insecure countries in the world.

Women and men of all ages are suffering from the effects of conflict, including abuses and loss of control over, and access to, vital resources.

On the table has been this proposal by Honorable Peter Mayen Majongdit, Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, who has been quoted saying investing in agriculture can boost the industry and empower the economic efficiency in the country. The Minister said previously that the agricultural cooperative society should be empowered in order to assist farmers to increase food production and stressed the need for the youth to embark on agriculture.

“Through the Ministry of Agriculture, you would have created a very powerful economic growth and that is why even within this region of East Africa, agriculture is the most powerful thing,” he said.

“We must support women and youth agricultural activities at the lower level in Payams, and Bomas with irrigation programs.”

According to him, to tackle acute hunger, South Sudan will have to produce more food where it is needed most.

The devil, however, is in the details of how this will be achieved, as the normal cycle of agricultural activity will be pegged to the security situation. And if the security aspect were guaranteed, then there would be a need for serious funding that would make such desired results possible.

In April 2022, the UN released Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report said more than half of South Sudanese are staring at a worsening food crisis, which reveals that 7.74 million people are endangered this year.

According to the report, 62.7 per cent, or 7.74 million people, will face a crisis or worsening levels of food insecurity between April and July.

The analysis says 1.34 million children under the age of five will be impacted by acute malnutrition due to food insecurity. 

More than 80 per cent of those who are food insecure in the country come from the states of ​​Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, Lakes and Eastern Equatoria.

The condition has become worse due to floods, droughts, conflicts, economic downturn, displacement and disrupted livelihoods, according to the United Nations.

This latest figures do not come as a surprise. For the past three years, the number of people in need of aid has remained stagnant. The statistics for the past couple of years keeps on fluctuating between 7 to 8 million people.

On 15 Sep 2021, Reena Ghelani, Director for Operations and Advocacy at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said South Sudan was facing its highest levels of food insecurity since its independence in 2011 with over 8.3 million people, including 1.4 million children in dire need of humanitarian aid.

 More than 60 per cent of its people are severely food insecure amid conflict, climate shocks, displacement, COVID-19 and lack of investment.

Noting that humanitarian actors have been able to avert famine so far, she said attacks by non-State armed groups continue to hamper their access to vulnerable populations. There is also pressure from widespread displacement, and with more heavy rains expected in the coming months, thousands of additional people will be forced to move, she warned.

 Following the recent Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) announcement that heavy rains could fall over East Africa during the months of March, April to May (MAM) seasons. 

It was reported that eastern South Sudan will witness an increase in the amount of rain while western South Sudan will witness a drop in the amount of rain.

 “FAO will continue to provide seeds, tools and fishing kits to people in urgent need of assistance. We also need increased investment to allow us to find innovative ways to help South Sudanese farmers adapt to climate change so they can grow enough food to meet their nutritional requirements,” said Meshack Malo, United Nations (FAO) representative in South Sudan

The major factors contributing to acute malnutrition include the high prevalence of diseases such as diarrhoea and inadequate feeding practices of infants and young children due to a lack of dietary diversity and infrequent meals.

Without consistent humanitarian and agricultural assistance to help communities cope and tackle hunger by supporting those who grow their own food – severe humanitarian consequences are inevitable.

 In order to address the stagnating humanitarian situation in the country, more funding is needed to address the challenges affecting the vulnerable people in the country.

UN agencies are calling for more funding in order to provide humanitarian aid to South Sudan.

FAO, UNICEF and WFP are united in their call for greater funding to allow for increased humanitarian assistance and emphasize the importance of the continued implementation of the peace agreement to address the root causes of insecurity across the country.

Early this year, the EU allocated over €41.7 million for humanitarian actions covering the response to food insecurity, violence and floods across South Sudan. This also includes €3 million supporting static and mobile interventions on education in emergencies, focusing on primary education for newly displaced and out-of-school children.

According to the Executive Director of CEPO, Edmund Yakani, the failure of some government authorities in timely handling insecurity in the communities has seriously contributed to the escalating food insecurity in the country.

For now, the humanitarian situation is worsening and requires urgent intervention and funding. The funding gap remains significantly high as the country requires $ 1.68 billion for its humanitarian intervention but what has been received is about $ 503.5 million leaving $1.17 billion unmet. UNICEF has revealed that it lacks US$148.0 million to tackle the humanitarian situation in South Sudan.

Early this year, UNICEF said it required US$ 183.6 million to meet the critical and lifesaving needs of children and women affected by the concurrent shocks in South Sudan, including conflict, cyclical drought, flooding, and the residual impact of COVID-19 but the funding is short of its target by far.

By February 2022 UNICEF funding gap stands at US$148.0 million. The funds available as of 2022, is 20 Million and the carry-over from 2021, 15 Million.