MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – CIVIL strife and unfavourable weather conditions have combined to exacerbate an already dire situation in crisis-torn South Sudan where about 6 million people face starvation.
This is nearly half of the continent’s newest country.
According to the United Nations agencies, the landlocked country faces a cereal deficit of 381 000 metric tons – 53 percent greater than in 2015 – and aggravating the already severe food shortages.
Cereal prices have shot up nearly five-fold since early last year, making it increasingly difficult for people to get enough to eat, according to a new joint Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission report by the Food andAgriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
“South Sudan is facing a deadly blend of conflict, economic hardship and poor rains. Together, they are worsening a hunger gap that we fear will force more people to go hungry and increase malnutrition,” said WFP Country, Director Joyce Luma.
Serge Tissot, FAO Representative in South Sudan concurred.
“Food insecurity has spread to areas previously considered relatively stable, highlighting the cumulative impact of conflict, economic downturn and climactic shocks,” Tissot said.
Despite huge potential for agricultural production – more than 90 percent of South Sudan’s land is arable – just 4,5 percent of available land was under cultivation when the country gained independence in 2011 from mainland Sudan.
Now, after over two years of civil war, this percentage has significantly decreased due to widespread insecurity, damage to agricultural assets and limitations in traditional farming methods.
Links between cereal-producing areas – mostly in the Equatoria and Bahr el-Ghazal states – and main markets have become extremely difficult due to heightened insecurity, a proliferation of roadblocks and exorbitant taxes levied on commercial transporters along major trade routes.
FAO and WFP, together with partners, have pledged to support efforts that aim to increase food availability, strengthen livelihoods and build resilience.
– CAJ News