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South Sudanese people face critical lack of food

Around 6.96mn South Sudanese will face acute levels of food insecurity or worse by the end of July 2019, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) update

The update has been released by the Government of South Sudan in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

An estimated 21,000 people will likely face a catastrophic lack of food access (IPC Phase 5, the highest level in the five-step classification), while about 1.82mn will face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and another 5.12mn people will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity.

Delayed rains, high food prices

The ongoing lean season started early following record low stocks from the poor 2018 harvest and has been further extended by the delayed onset of 2019 seasonal rains. This, combined with persistent economic instability, the effects of previous years of conflict and related asset depletion and population displacements, have contributed to the disruption of livelihoods and has reduced people's ability to access food.

High food prices caused by last year's poor harvests, market disruptions due to insecurity, high transport costs and a depreciated currency are also contributing to the high levels of acute food insecurity.

“The recovery of food production and increase of yields in South Sudan are reliant on the maintenance of peace, and must be given a chance,” said Meshack Malo, FAO representative in South Sudan.

“With greater stability in the country, access to those in need has improved, allowing us to treat more than 100,000 children suffering from severe malnutrition in the first five months of the year, with more than 90 per cent of those children recovering,” said Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF's representative in South Sudan.

“The hunger season coincides with the rainy season and that's a perfect storm in South Sudan,” said Ronald Sibanda, WFP's country director in South Sudan. “As we ramp up our response, the race is now against time and nature - we must act now to save the lives and livelihoods of the millions on the brink of starvation.”

Responding to the crisis

FAO is providing new varieties of seeds suited to local conditions and training in techniques that will reduce losses from drought and flooding. In addition to supporting 800,000 vulnerable farming, fishing and agro-pastoral households with vegetable and crop seeds, agricultural tools and fishing equipment, FAO is carrying out animal vaccinations and other veterinary services in support of livestock keepers to protect their livelihoods.

UNICEF and partners will further scale up services during the lean season to reach more children affected by severe acute malnutrition, expanding its programming through two key methods. In areas with good humanitarian access, a long-term presence on the ground will allow UNICEF and partners to stay and deliver. Integrated Rapid Response missions will be used to reach people in insecure and inaccessible areas. More than 100,000 children affected by severe acute malnutrition are expected to be reached during the peak lean season.

WFP will provide up to 5.1mn people with a variety of support including life-saving food and cash distributions in areas with working markets, food in return for work on the construction and rehabilitation of community assets, food for school meals, and special products for the prevention and treatment of malnutrition among children, and pregnant or nursing women.

WFP has prepositioned 173,000 mt of food in more than 60 areas before the onset of the rainy season, 66,000 mt more than the same time in 2018.