If we don’t act now, food shortage looms for South Sudan

Akon Malek, 29, is among those who fled for safety to the Malakal camp for displaced people in South Sudan. Photo: Simon Rawles/Oxfam

Pushed to the brink of disaster, the world’s newest country needs bold efforts to end the conflict that has driven 1.7 million people from their homes.

A lull in the fighting that first erupted last December threatens to flare again in South Sudan, raising the specter of famine for countless families. “If famine comes to South Sudan it will come through the barrel of a gun,” warned Tariq Reible, head of Oxfam’s programs in the country. “This is a manmade crisis—not one caused by the vagaries of weather, and though humanitarian aid is vital, it cannot fix a political problem.”

Ragina John holds six-month-old Rach Piny, who has a chest infection. Both fled to Malakal camp in South Sudan seeking safety from the fighting that has displaced about 1.7 million people. Photo: Simon Rawles/Oxfam

The fighting has disrupted markets, pushed up food prices, and cost many people their livelihoods. And while international aid combined with the resourcefulness of the South Sudanese has helped to stave off the worst consequences, a million more people could soon be facing dangerous levels of hunger if the fighting resumes.

Oxfam is now helping about 340,000 people across the country, including providing clean water to more than 69,000 of them and distributing food to more than 90,000. We have also helped nearly 150,000 South Sudanese who have fled for safety to Uganda and Ethiopia.

As a new round of fighting looms with the arrival of the dry season, Oxfam and other aid agencies are pushing for an arms embargo while urging the government of South Sudan, members of the opposition, and other armed groups to stop the fighting, stop attacking civilians, and stop using child soldiers. Aid groups are calling for long-term peace and for safe access for humanitarian workers so they can reach South Sudanese families in need.

“If the international community really wants to avert a famine, then it has to make bold diplomatic efforts to bring both sides to end the fighting,” said Reibl.

You can help by adding your voice to the chorus of others calling on President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice to work with the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan. And by making a donation to Oxfam, you can help us continue to reach families in need with life-saving clean water and sanitation services.

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