Three UN agencies on Monday warned that seven million people in South Sudan, almost two-thirds of the population, could become severely food insecure in the coming months without sustained humanitarian assistance and access.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) in a statement said, if this happens, this will be the highest ever number of food insecure people in South Sudan.
The period of greatest risk will be the lean season, between May and July.
Particularly at risk are 155,000 people, including 29,000 children, who could suffer from the most extreme levels of hunger.
In January, 5.3 million people, or nearly half of the population, were already struggling to find enough food each day and were in “crisis” or “emergency” levels of food insecurity (IPC Phases three and four), according to an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report released today.
This represents a 40 per cent increase in the number of severely food insecure people compared to January 2017.
The report comes one year after famine was declared in parts of South Sudan in February 2017.
Improved access and a massive humanitarian response succeeded in containing and averting famine later last year.
In spite of this, the agencies said, the food insecurity outlook has never been so dire as it is now.
The FAO, UNICEF and WFP warned that progress made to prevent people from dying of hunger could be undone, and more people than ever could be pushed into severe hunger and famine-like conditions during May to July unless assistance and access are maintained.
“The situation is extremely fragile, and we are close to seeing another famine. The projections are stark.
“If we ignore them, we’ll be faced with a growing tragedy.
“If farmers receive support to resume their livelihoods, we will see a rapid improvement in the country’s food security situation due to increased local production,” said Serge Tissot, FAO Representative in South Sudan.
Overall hunger levels have risen due to protracted conflict that led to reduced food production and constantly disrupted livelihoods.
This was further exacerbated by economic collapse, which impacted markets and trade, making them unable to compensate for the decrease in local food production.