Millions At Risk As South Sudan Hovers On The Brink Of Famine

April, 21, 2014: South Sudan may face worst starvation in decades if international community does not take action in the next 60 days…

The world’s youngest state, South Sudan, is now on the verge of collapse.

The world may witness a humanitarian catastrophe in South Sudan in coming months as 11 million people are at a risk of starvation.

An Impending Disaster

According to Toby Lanzer, senior United Nations humanitarian official in South Sudan, 3.7 million people are already “at severe risk of food insecurity” in the troubled country, a number which could exponentially increase in the future.

South Sudan’s political crisis which started in December, has already transformed into a violent ethnic conflict and may further transition into a humanitarian debacle if radical steps are not taken to alleviate widespread hunger.

The time for action in South Sudan is now, as a crucial planting season is underway and will end before the annual rains hit the country in May.

The Origins

Conflict in Sudan has lasted for centuries

The latest wave of violence has its origins in President Salva Kiir’s decision to fire his Vice President Riek Machar in July, last year, following accusations of plotting a coup against the government.

The political conflict evolved into an ethnic one when fighting between two of the country’s biggest tribes, the Dinka and the Nuer, lead by Kiir and Machar respectively, aggravated ethnic sentiments on both sides.

Violence has spread all over South Sudan and has resulted in the deaths of over 10,000 people as well as the displacement of hundreds of thousands of more.

Displaced People

As of now, more than a million South Sudanese people have been displaced including 803,000 internally displaced in addition to 270,000 who have migrated to neighboring countries.

Some of the refugees have fled to the banks of River Nile where they are fishing and hunting for sustenance. However, when the upcoming rains will flood the river next month, those people will face the risk of further displacement, hunger, and inevitably disease.

State Of Agriculture

The conflict has left the country’s agriculture in a state of virtual paralysis. Thousands of farmers have abandoned their fields. Those who have stayed have not planted seed due to the fear of the ongoing fight.

Moreover, due to continual violence, trade has mostly been suspended. Due to the dearth of markets, the prices of seeds have skyrocketed further crippling the country’s agricultural production.

International Support

In such calamitous circumstances, according to some estimates, around 50,000 children may die as a result of the worst famine in nearly 30 years.

So what can the international community do in order to prevent this?

According to Lanzer, South Sudan is in dire need of $230 million in international aid in the next 60 days to avert the worst starvation since the 1980s.

The United Nations is expecting to receive $1.27 billion for South Sudan for 2014. However, disappointingly it only received $385 million in the first quarter of 2014.

Lanzer says, "At the moment if the donor countries give us money, most of the money goes towards paying buying relief items…my call on the international community is to be quick, help now, a, because we have a planting season, b because when those rains strike, and they will, and when the roads become impassable, we cannot longer position the relief where it needs to go."

If the international community remains inactive on the issue, the situation may spiral out of hand and the future of South Sudanese children may be compromised.