A hungry nation: Ethnic clashes turn South Sudan Equatoria region, once food basket into a ‘basket case’

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The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is worsening due to the deterioration of a conflict that erupted in since 2013. Latest estimates suggest at least 4.6 million people across the country are facing hunger, while hundreds of thousands keep crossing into neighbouring nations fleeing violence.

South Sudan became the world’s newest nation when it declared independence from Sudan in 2011.

However, the country descended into civil war in 2013 when President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka ethnic group, fired his deputy Riek Machar – from the Nuer group – and his cabinet.

Ethnic-related violence spread, with militia groups carrying out attacks in villages and areas known to be inhabited by either the Dinka or Nuer tribes.

An estimated 50,000 people have been killed, amid allegations of crimes against humanity committed by both sides, including rape, torture and the use of child soldiers.

Earlier this month, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned the country was witnessing an “unprecedented” level of malnutrition, which was already above the 15% “emergency” level in seven out of South Sudan’s 10 states. In Unity and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states, the malnutrition level was of about 30%.

People are fleeing violence leaving their crops to rot in the fields especially in the equatoria region. In addition, the heavy rainy season has made some roads inaccessible hindering food deliverance.

Many fear hunger will deepen as the conflict has now spilled into the Equatoria region, considered one of South Sudan’s breadbaskets.

‘There is hope in South Sudan’

“Food insecurity is not only getting larger in numbers year on year, but it is getting deeper and it is spreading to areas that were previously considered stable,” Jeremiah Young, policy, advocacy and peace-building advisor at World Vision South Sudan, said

“The western Equatoria region has vast potential to not only provide food for the country itself, but also to be a food exporter to the region,” he continued.

“The longer the insecurity remains, the less we are going to be able to develop those potential opportunities for the country to not have to always be suffering from food insecurity, relying on aids and developing as a new nation.”

Young explained the South Sudanese section of the global charity is assisting civilians with holistic programmes ranging from food distribution to community capacity building.

“We do cover the whole sphere of the various types of intervention that match the vulnerability that are being experienced in South Sudan,” he said.

Young added international donours and humanitarian organisations were at a crucial point in terms of the response to the crisis and called on stakeholders to “really commit themselves to South Sudan.”

“There is hope and South Sudanese people express this hope,” he concluded.

Source: IBTimes