World / East Africa
Wednesday, 22 Feb 2017 20:00 EAT
The latest food security analysis in South Sudan has led to a declaration of famine in Leer and Mayendit counties in Greater Unity region, the United Nations has said. Two other counties are at risk of famine. The lives of some 100,000 people are threatened, the UN World Food Programme, UNICEF and Food and Agriculture Organization said in a news dispatch from Rome late Tuesday.
Despite a substantial humanitarian response in South Sudan by FAO, UNICEF, WFP and partners, food insecurity has deteriorated to unprecedented levels in these areas owing to protracted violence. Other factors contributing to the dire situation are, insecurity, displacement and a protection crisis that has prevented adequate humanitarian access and aid delivery.
"We stand united in our appeal to all parties to facilitate immediate and safe access for humanitarian actors and to respect the humanitarian space'' the agencies said in a joint statement. “A wider famine can only be prevented if assistance is urgently scaled up and reaches those most in need,” they added.
Massive and timely humanitarian interventions averted a famine over the last three years, mitigating the worst effects of the crisis. However, the provision of humanitarian assistance has become increasingly challenging in the above-mentioned areas, said the statement. It was signed by FAO Director General Jose Graziano Da Silva, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
Today, almost five million South Sudanese are facing severe food insecurity, but are unable to meet their basic food needs. They also must sell critical assets in order to buy food. The situation is expected to continue deteriorating through the lean season, which begins in July 2017. “People are dying of hunger. We must take action now”, they pleaded with the international community.
Adding his voice to the call for relief assistance, Pope Francis called today for urgent humanitarian aid for the starving South Sudan's starving population, saying millions risked being "condemned to death" by a famine in parts of the war-ravaged country. "Now more than ever there should be a commitment by everyone to not just talk but contribute food aid and allow it to reach suffering populations," he told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square for his weekly audience.
The Pope said millions of people, including many children, were being "condemned to death by hunger".