Hunger looms over South Sudan; urgent aid needed

By Oxfam
Mary Ajak Maluk and her family fled the fighting near their home in South Sudan. Along with many others, they sought shelter around the town of Mingkamen. Photo: Mackenzie Knowles Coursin/Oxfam

Millions of people are at acute risk of hunger. They need tools and seeds so they can plant their fields and ensure a harvest to feed their families.

Though the fits and starts of peace talks have dominated the news about South Sudan in recent weeks, there’s another story to be told about the conflict that broke out there last December: the country now needs a massive and rapid global surge in aid to avoid catastrophic hunger.

More than a third of South Sudan’s people–3.7 million–are facing emergency and crisis levels of hunger and are in need of immediate assistance The number of people going hungry is expected to go up.

Months of fighting throughout the country has meant that families have been unable to plant ahead of the rainy season, which has now started. One of the most pressing tasks of the aid effort is to get seeds and tools to people so that they can have a chance of a decent harvest. If that chance is lost, the consequences could be devastating for people trying to feed their families.

“I used to be a farmer. I grew food to sell and feed my family,” said Mary Ajak Maluk, who, together with her husband and children fled in the middle of the night when fighting erupted. “I miss having alternative food for my children; they don’t really like sorghum that is provided. I miss having a ready market and a community of people I know.”

So far Oxfam has been able to help more than180,000 people in South Sudan and 63,000 in Uganda. Oxfam is providing food, working to prevent outbreaks of communicable diseases by providing access to clean water and sanitation, and providing household items such as mosquito nets, blankets, cook stoves and charcoal for cooking.

“When we arrived there was no clean water,” said Ayak Majok who made her way to an informal settlement in the town of Mingkamen. “Many people got sick but we had no choice but to drinki it and use it for cooking.” But now, she said, the situation has improved. ”The water I collect from the Oxfam taps is very clean, I know this because since i started collecting water from this tap, no one has fallen sick.”

Along with aid delivery, Oxfam is also supporting peace building initiatives in communities throughout South Sudan and Uganda.

A conference in Oslo on May 20 will bring world leaders, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, together to sound the alarm and pledge their support to the peace process and to the aid effort. The UN has appealed for $1.27 billion to respond to the crisis, but only 40 percent of the request has been funded, leaving a $700 million shortfall.

“The South Sudan crisis is at a tipping point,” said Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam in the UK. “People need to plant their crops, to rebuild their homes and lives, children need to go back to school, health facilities to be reopened, and the time for it to happen is now. We cannot afford to wait, we cannot afford to fail.”

Oxfam is rushing food and clean water to crowded makeshift camps in South Sudan, and working to prevent disease outbreaks, but we urgently need your support. 

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