UNITED NATIONS — The humanitarian situation in South Sudan has deteriorated in the past months as a result of conflict and climate shocks, a UN official said Monday.

“Against a backdrop of profound macro-economic challenges, the drivers of conflict and climate shocks have resulted in a dire humanitarian situation,” said Ghada Eltahir Mudawi, director of Operations and Advocacy Division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“When it gets as bad as in South Sudan, the specter of severe hunger and even famine results,” she warned.

Food insecurity will persist this year. About 8.3 million people will likely experience severe food insecurity during the lean season from May to July. Some 2.9 million people will likely face emergency levels of hunger while 87,000 people will likely face catastrophic levels of food insecurity, she told the UN Security Council in a briefing.

South Sudan now faces a fourth year of above-average rainfall which has disrupted the agricultural season and constrained food production. At least half a million people will likely be impacted by floods this year with 200,000 people already displaced in Unity State with new flooding happening in areas water-logged from last year’s flooding, she said.

Over 2 million people remain internally displaced and over 2.3 million South Sudanese are refugees. Displacement of people continues due to sub-national violence and conflict over resources such as cattle. Women and girls are at serious risk of gender-based violence when fighting breaks out, she said.

Humanitarian partners are committed to staying in South Sudan and delivering aid although the country remains a dangerous place for humanitarians. So far this year, four humanitarian workers have been killed in the line of duty, said Mudawi.

This year’s humanitarian response plan requires 1.7 billion U.S. dollars to assist 6.8 million people. The United Nations has so far reached about 3.1 million people due to a lack of resources. The humanitarian response plan is only 26 percent funded, she said.

The World Food Programme has had to reset its priorities in its food assistance program. About 4.5 million people will now be targeted, instead of the initial 6 million, putting more people at heightened risk of starvation. The Food and Agriculture Organization has also had to reduce plans for seed distributions which impacts communities’ ability to feed themselves, she said.

The international response needs humanitarian, development, and peace-building efforts to be working together to address the root causes of this crisis. Sustainability through national ownership of basic services is needed and efforts should promote localized leadership and solutions when and where possible. The protection of civilians and accountability for human rights abuses must be ensured, she said.

Continued attacks on humanitarian workers and assets perpetrated with impunity must stop. Flexible, unearmarked and early funding at scale is urgently required to address the growing humanitarian needs, she said.

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