The UN World Food Program will suspend food aid to over 100,000 displaced people in South Sudan, as funding shortages force the agency to make what it calls a painful decisions.
The cuts will start next month and last until January, affecting 106,000 people living in the capital Juba as well as Bor South county and the town of Wau,
According to the agency in a statement released Monday, drastic times call for drastic measures since there is inadequate funding, the agency is forced to take these painful decisions and stretch their limited resources to meet the critical needs of people.
The civil war that has been tearing South Sudan apart since December 2013 is causing widespread destruction, death and displacement. 1.47 million people are internally displaced and another 2.2 million are refugees in neighbouring countries
A collapsing economy, reduced crop production and dependence on imports seriously undermine people’s ability to secure sufficient nutritious food all year round, putting millions of lives at risk.
In 2017, famine was declared in two counties. Further deterioration of the situation was prevented through early detection as well as prompt and sustained international assistance. However, hunger and malnutrition levels are at historic high levels. As of January 2020, 7.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
Women and girls suffer disproportionately from hunger and food insecurity. Cultural norms and decades of violence including rape as a weapon of war underpin deep gender inequalities.
Men control most productive assets and positions of power. With 80% of the country’s women illiterate, domestic violence and early marriage are common place.
Food assistance is essential to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in the country. The World Food Programme (WFP), has been providing life-saving support to millions of people on all sides of the conflict and in virtually all areas of the country that are accessible since independence in 2011 (and as part of Sudan since 1963).
With a view to turning food assistance into a tool for peace building and future development, WFP is engaging grassroots civil society organizations and empowering communities – with a special focus on women and girls – to foster increasing resilience and self-reliance. WFP partners in South Sudan include UN and other international agencies, as well as local NGOs as part of localization efforts under the Grand Bargain.
Matthew Hollingworth the WFP representative and country director confirmed that if funding levels continue to drop, the agency may have no choice but to make further cuts as the needs of vulnerable communities continue to outpace available resources. he also added that the agency is calling for an additional $154 million (131 million euros) in assistance to meet the growing demand.
The announcement comes shortly after the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA reported that 380,000 people had been affected by heavy flooding, which deluged farmland, submerged homes and displaced families in the impoverished nation.
OCHA last month also warned of a funding shortfall, having received only 54 percent of the $1.7 billion required to fund programs in the country.
Four out of five of South Sudan’s 11 million people live in “absolute poverty,” according to the World Bank in 2018, while more than 60 percent of its population suffers from severe hunger from the combined effects of conflict, drought and floods.
Since achieving independence from Sudan in 2011, the young nation has been in the throes of a chronic economic and political crisis, and is struggling to recover from the aftermath of a five-year civil war that left nearly 400,000 people dead.
Although a 2018 ceasefire and power-sharing deal between President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar still largely holds, it is being sorely tested, with little progress made in fulfilling the terms of the peace process.
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