Famine hits parts of South Sudan; threatens 3 other nations.
By the time officials declare famine, people have already started to die from hunger. That tragedy is now gripping parts of South Sudan and threatens to snare two other African countries: Nigeria and Somalia. Across the Gulf of Aden on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, a fourth country—Yemen—could soon suffer the same fate. If aid or services do not arrive immediately, malnutrition and death will increase exponentially in all four countries. The lives of millions of people are at risk, and the number of people currently facing severe food insecurity goes well beyond these four countries. Ethiopia and Kenya are affected by the same drought as Somalia, and additional aid is needed there now to meet needs and to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
The problem is a man-made one: Conflict and insecurity have plagued Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen. In Somalia, drought and weak governance have followed years of fighting. But man-made problems thankfully have man-made solutions: the international community can help resolve these conflicts and send help to prevent the situation from getting worse.
“My youngest son is sick. His body is weak. I went to the hospital and they told me he was suffering from malnutrition. He’s unstable and has to eat healthy food to recover. I’m afraid my little son will die and I would blame myself because I couldn’t buy enough food for him. I was even thinking of selling my kidney before I received some humanitarian aid.” -Yahya, a retired soldier in Yemen who is worried about how to feed his children.
Updated April 2017
Countries tip into famine and dangerous levels of hunger when people are unable to find, grow, or pay for food. Chronic poverty is part of the cause, coupled with weak governance and conflict—especially when the fighting displaces families, cutting them off from outside assistance, while destroying their markets and making it impossible for them to make a living or work their fields.
Throughout South Sudan, Oxfam has been providing clean water and sanitation services to help prevent the spread of diseases—like cholera and diarrhea—which can lead to malnutrition and prove fatal. Since 2016, we have helped more than 600,000 people across the country. Many people have fled famine-hit areas and made their way to Panyijar County in Unity State, where we have helped about 40,000 of the most vulnerable. Some of them are now living in a swampy area on remote islands to escape the conflict and Oxfam has been helping them with travel vouchers, so they can take canoes to food distribution points. Working with local partner groups, Oxfam has been distributing some of that emergency food.
In northeast Nigeria, Oxfam has helped about 245,000 people since May 2014. We have been providing families with emergency food, and cash or vouchers so they can buy food in local markets. We have also been working to provide clean water and better sanitation services. Oxfam is also helping refugees from Nigeria and others affected by the conflict in neighboring Chad and Niger.
In Somaliland, we are launching a program that aims to reach at least 20,000 people with clean water, sanitation services, and cash assistance for food. We hope to significantly expand our work to help over 200,000 more people over the next 12 months.
A shocking 17 million people don’t know where they’ll get their next meal, with seven million on the verge of famine in Yemen. We are helping more than a million people around the country get money for food, and have access to clean and safe water and sanitation services in order to prevent the spread of cholera and other diseases.
Recurring drought has left communities across Ethiopia struggling to survive. We have reached 318,000 people (and 84 schools and hospitals), providing them with clean water. In the coming months we intend to help 700,000 people with clean and safe water, sanitation, and cash to help families buy food and keep their livestock alive.
In parts of northern Kenya, where for years we have worked with communities to help build their resilience to droughts, we are helping communities repair their wells to ensure families can survive this unusually severe emergency. We plan to help 600,000 people over the next six months with cash assistance for food and clean water.
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Stories & updates
Nyal, South Sudan, was once a quiet town. Two years of extended fighting in the surrounding areas however, has forced thousands of people to seek refuge in the town and the islands surrounding it.
Today, Oxfam announced the submission of amicus briefs in the United States Court of Appeals in both the Ninth and Fourth Circuits.
“We have never seen two years without rain in our lifetime,” says a man named Mohammed, who used to have 400 sheep and goats and now has only 15 left. “We are in a dangerous situation—even people. If the drought continues like this, people will die.”