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The risk of mass deaths from starvation is growing by over 9,200 people a day in war-torn South Sudan despite a famine declaration being recently lifted - Concern Worldwide said today.
The international aid agency has warned that while organisations are making a positive difference, the emergency in the East African nation - which became the world’s youngest country when it gained independence six years ago this Sunday (July 9) - is unprecedented and is worsening with over six million people, half its population, now struggling to find enough food to survive as they flee from conflict.
This devastating hunger-toll is an increase of 1.1 million people since late February, when 4.9 million were estimated to be food insecure, or an average rise of 9,243 men, women and children every day.
Over 1.1 million children are also suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition – which can cause serious lifelong illness or death if untreated - and 1.7 million people are on the brink of famine.
Concern Worldwide’s South Sudan Country Director, Fiona McLysaght, said that despite the declaration of famine being officially lifted in recent weeks in South Sudan’s Leer and Mayendit counties, the overall situation is dire. She said:
We cannot let South Sudan slip off the world’s radar
Fiona, from Clare in Ireland, who has witnessed first-hand the suffering of the South Sudanese people, added:
The aid effort is having a positive impact, but it is vital that the humanitarian community continue its efforts to ensure that people don’t slip into famine and more people into severe food crisis levels.
Concern mobilised a large-scale response to ease famine after its declaration in February by running nutrition programmes for acutely malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women which is saving lives and alleviating suffering - but our efforts continue as the crisis exacerbates.
The worsening crisis comes as farmers flee their lands in the Equatoria region - known as the breadbasket of South Sudan - due to insecurity and displacement, which has shrunk production and further inflated food prices that were already up by over 85 per cent.
Conflict has resulted in the displacement of 3.9 million people, including two million children, and many are fleeing to neighbouring countries like Uganda – where nearly one million South Sudanese have sought refuge and aid with an estimated 2,000 crossing the border each day.
A major cholera epidemic has also infected nearly 11,000 people and killed around 250, but it is feared thousands more may die if the disease – which can kill within hours if left untreated – continues to spread.
Concern Worldwide - which runs a major relief operation in South Sudan with just under 350 staff - said aid workers are responding, but need safer access to those most in need in areas affected by the ongoing civil war, has killed an estimated 10,000 people.
The aid agency’s Regional Director for the Horn of Africa, Carol Morgan, said:
We urgently need a ceasefire and a lasting peace so that we can get safe access to the millions of people who desperately need assistance.
In 2011, after a referendum, the world applauded South Sudan for gaining independence after decades of war, but six years on the youngest member of our global family is in crisis and needs our help.”
The global humanitarian response plan for South Sudan is 50 per cent funded with $815.4 million (€716.3 million) contributed so far to the $1.64 billion (€1.44 billion) requested.
As the crisis persists in South Sudan and others areas of East Africa, Concern is continuing to respond and asks individuals who want to donate or find out more to log onto its website www.concern.net.
For more information or interview requests, please call Kevin Jenkinson at 086 358 2886 or by email: [email protected].
Concern has just under 350 staff in South Sudan, reaching over 700,000 people. The aid agency operates in Unity state, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Juba, providing emergency nutrition for the severely malnourished and distributing food. Concern also provides clean water and latrines, and operates preventative health and nutrition programming.