- People in conflict-affected areas of South Sudan collect food from WFP (WFP/eter Testuzza Photo)
September 16, 2021 (NEW YORK) – South Sudan is facing its highest levels of food insecurity since independence, a senior United Nations official disclosed.
Addressing the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Reena Ghelani, the Director for Operations and Advocacy at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), said more than 60 per cent of the people in South Sudan are severely food insecure, against the backdrop of conflict, climate shocks, displacement, COVID-19 and lack of investment
Over 8.3 million people, including 1.4 million children, need humanitarian assistance, she said.
“Notwithstanding these gains, there has been limited change in the behaviour by non-State armed groups and certain youth groups that continue to hamper access,” she said. So far in 2021, four aid workers have lost their lives and more than 170 have been forced to relocate due to security threats,” said Ghelani.
She added, “More than 1,000 metric tonnes of food — valued at more than $1 million — has been looted from humanitarian facilities”.
According to the top UN official, frequent attacks on convoys, including along a key humanitarian supply route from Uganda, have disrupted aid operations and increased the price of essential goods.
Also cited as a major challenge is the deteriorating security situation in Tambura County of South Sudan’s Western Equatoria, which has prompted the displacement of 80,000 people and armed conflict in Central Equatoria mainly involving non-signatory parties to the Revitalized Peace Agreement and other armed factions, which has displaced more than 120,000 people.
Ghelani further revealed that the $1.7 billion South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan is the country’s largest ever, but it is only 56 per cent funded.
South Sudan has received $39 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund, while the South Sudan Humanitarian Fund released $63 million to address food insecurity, civilian protection needs and the consequences of COVID-19.
“Although we prevented a catastrophe this year, with all the challenges faced, we will have to remain ever vigilant to ensure we do not come to the brink of famine again this coming year,” stressed Ghelani.
Lorna Merekaje, a South Sudanese activist, said the parties to the peace agreement don’t seem committed to full implementation of peace deal, hence prolonging the transitional period and delaying critical governance reforms.
“Many South Sudanese citizens feel that the delayed implementation only serves the interest of the political elite while prolonging the suffering of the masses,” she said.
Stressing that unhealed wounds and continued violence have left the country “deeply fragmented and bleeding”, Merekaje said despite an initial reduction in violence following the signing of the Peace Agreement in 2018, the following years have seen a systematic increase in the scale and intensity of so-called intercommunal conflicts.
“The citizens don’t know who to trust anymore,” she said, calling on the Transitional Government to expedite unification of the armed forces, implement comprehensive security sector reform and establish a national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration progress “without discrimination or favour”.
The South Sudanese activist warned against the tendency by the South Sudanese authorities to postpone addressing critical issues, such as managing diversities and ethnicity, healing and reconciliation, accountability, reform and transformation.