100,000 are starving in the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945
In 2011, South Sudan declared independence from Sudan, following over 50 years of civil war. Despite what were then high hopes for the new nation, South Sudan fell again into civil war, only two years after its new-found independence. The conflict experienced a brief respite do to a peace agreement in 2015, only to be followed by more violence as president Salva Kiir clashed with vice president Riek Machar. The conflict continues to have an incredibly destructive presence in the lives of everyday South Sudanese citizens, many of whom have been caught up in the conflict, forced to leave their country, or joined the 3.5 million displaced from their homes.
Because of these circumstances, South Sudan is currently experiencing what has been called the worst famine since World War II. Due to scarcity, food has become almost completely unaffordable, making it incredibly difficult for people to buy the bare minimum of nutrition necessary for survival. Poor roads, more than half of which become inaccessible during South Sudan’s rainy season, make it difficult for aid agencies to reach people by ground via trucks or barges. This means that aid must be delivered by airdrop, which is considerably more expensive and less affective, not to mention hazardous for those receiving it. Patricia Danzi, head of operations for Africa of the International Committee of the Red Cross, estimates that humanitarian aid is seven times more expensive in South Sudan then in nearby Somalia.
This makes it increasingly difficult for aid agencies to reach the 100,000 people currently experiencing starvation. The UN estimates that 5 million more people (42% of the population) lack adequate access to food, and have no knowledge of when they will be able to eat, or where their next meal will come from.
Despite the severity of the crisis in South Sudan, awareness and media coverage in the US and globally is incredibly low. Ashley McLaughlin, media and communications officer for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) South Sudan writes that “in America, in all of 2015, there was no mention of South Sudan in the weekly evening news shows.” It is not difficult to trace the lack of media attention to the lack of humanitarian aid. In fact, as of 2016 the UN reported that only 3% of it’s appeal for humanitarian aid to South Sudan had been met. What funding has been provided is largely reactionary, despite what Zlatko Gegic, country director for Oxfam South Sudan cites as the “need to shift from a short-term approach to a more sustainable and transformative one.” In short, it is impossible to address South Sudan’s starvation crisis without also dealing with the violence and displacement that prove major factors in its existence. While funding is desperately needed, it must be applied holistically. The Department for International Development, for instance, is moving toward a “multi-year” funding model that enables the aid agencies it funds to offer better long-term support to those without adequate access to food.
This is a crisis that can no longer be ignored. In a world where one third of the food produced is never eaten, and around six billion pounds of fruits and vegetables go unharvested in the US alone, it is clear that we can do better.
EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. She has worked as a volunteer in Guatemala City and is passionate about travel and social justice. She plans to continue traveling wherever life may take her.