The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended part of its food aid in South Sudan due to a funding shortage – heightening the risk of starvation for 1.7 million people.
The move to suspend aid will affect almost a third of the 6.2 million people in South Sudan the WFP had planned to assist this year. It comes as global food prices soar amid the Russia-Ukraine war, leaving humanitarian agencies working in Africa to work with funding shortfalls.
Climate change is also exacerbating the situation, with South Sudan facing severe flooding, localised drought as well as man-made conflict that has left more than 60 percent of the population grappling with severe hunger.
“South Sudan is facing its hungriest year since independence,” the WFP’s acting country director in South Sudan, Adeyinka Badejo-Sanogo, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday. “We are already in a crisis, but we are trying to avert the situation from becoming more explosive.”
Badejo-Sanogo, who was speaking from Juba, South Sudan’s capital, said the WFP urgently needs $426m to cover needs for the next six months and dial back what she described as an “explosive situation”.
The WFP said it had exhausted all options before suspending food assistance, including halving rations in 2021.
It said that following the food aid suspension, it is now hoping to reach 4.5 million South Sudanese in need, including 87,000 people already experiencing famine-like conditions.
The Norwegian Refugee Council listed the situation in the country as one of the world’s 10 most neglected displacement crises, highlighting the discrepancies in fund-raising for African countries, compared with that for Ukrainian refugees.
It highlighted that it took just one day this March for a humanitarian appeal for Ukraine to be almost fully funded.
“The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the immense gap between what is possible when the international community rallies behind a crisis, and the daily reality for millions of people suffering in silence within these crises on the African continent that the world has chosen to ignore,” the aid group’s chief Jan Egeland said.