UN agencies call for unhindered humanitarian access in South Sudan

UGANDA - 2018/05/07: Female South Sudanese refugees seen carrying a bag of 50KG food supply from the distribution point at Bidi Bidi refugee settlement. (Photo by Alda Tsang/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Three UN agencies on Friday called for unhindered humanitarian access to parts of South Sudan’s Pibor County in Jonglei State, where people have run out of food and are facing catastrophic levels of hunger.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF said in a joint statement that humanitarian assistance is needed to save lives and avert a total collapse of livelihoods in hard-to-reach areas.

FILE PHOTO: Female South Sudanese refugees seen carrying a bag of food supply from the distribution point at a refugee settlement. (Photo by Alda Tsang/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“We call on all parties to stop the violence and to ensure safe humanitarian access in order to prevent an already dire situation from turning into a full-blown catastrophe,” said FAO representative in South Sudan Meshack Malo.

Malo said FAO’s priority is to assist farming and agro-pastoral communities to increase their production and preserve their livelihoods.

Makena Walker, WFP deputy country director in South Sudan said the agency is extremely worried about the rising numbers of people suffering because of the lack of sufficient food and nutrition, intensified conflict, unprecedented flooding and high food prices.

“The coming year will be extremely tough, but we are determined to do all we can to reach more people for longer periods of time,” said Walker.

He said WFP has already begun scaling up its lifesaving food and nutritional assistance to critically food insecure areas in Pibor County as well as other areas of concern, extending its humanitarian response beyond the usual lean season and increasing the number of vulnerable people who need support.

The statement coincided with the release of a new Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report which says high levels of hunger are being driven by insecurity, the effects of COVID-19, the economic crisis, and the impact of flooding on livelihoods.

The report estimates that between October and November, 6.5 million people in South Sudan faced severe acute food insecurity and are in need of urgent assistance.

This number, the joint report between the UN and South Sudan says, is projected to grow to 7.24 million between April and July 2021.

“We are extremely concerned about the increased numbers of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. These children need urgent treatment to prevent them from dying,” said UNICEF representative in South Sudan Mohamed Ayoya.

“The data leave us with no doubt about the sense of urgency for all of us, Government, donor community and humanitarian actors, to join hands and ensure all these children get the treatment they need. At the same time, we need to invest more in actions to prevent children from becoming malnourished in the first place,” Ayoya added.