Aid effort to avert South Sudan famine in jeopardy

July 9, 2014

“We will be staring into the abyss and fail to avert a famine if funds do not start arriving soon.”
Cecilia Millan Oxfam's Country Director in South Sudan

Aid agencies face closure of projects as money fails to arrive

A group of seven major international aid agencies said they face a shortfall of $89 million just when the South Sudan humanitarian crisis edges closer to the risk of famine. Speaking out on the 3rd anniversary of the country’s independence they warned their aid efforts to help hundreds of thousands of people caught up in the conflict was under threat due to a lack of funds.

South Sudan is the most pressing humanitarian crisis in Africa. Violence, hunger and sickness blight the lives of people who three years ago were hopeful of an independent future and end to war. Some 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to fighting including nearly 400,000 people who are refugees in neighbouring countries. Many have crossed the border weak and malnourished. Nearly 4 million people in South Sudan are facing crisis or emergency levels of hunger. In the UN camp in Bentiu child deaths are well above emergency threshold.

Funding shortfalls

World Vision, which estimates that 250,000 children are at risk of severe malnutrition, faces the largest single funding gap of $33 million. Oxfam which has helped over 260,000 people since the crisis began has only managed to raise half of the $30.35 million it needs. Save the Children has helped nearly 162,000 and has plans to help over 500,000 but needs an extra $19.5 million. Care International is currently assisting over 150,000 people and is short of more than $9 million to continue and expand life-saving work.

Expanding International Rescue Committee’s work in South Sudan and refugees in Ethiopia and Uganda is under threat due to a shortfall of $3. million). Christian Aid, which has so far supported over 100,000 people, needs an additional $7 million and Tearfund faces a $2.4 million and if it had more funds it would expand its current work.

Risk of famine

The risk of famine is rising as the number of people requiring help is steadily rising, but the money to enable agencies to do something about this is not coming through. The funding crisis is not affecting the agencies alone. The UN’s $1.8 billion appeal is so far less than half funded.

The agencies said that there is a desperate need for peace in South Sudan so that people can go home, go back to school, plant crops and patch their lives back together. International pressure is needed on all parties to the conflict to end the violence and to build a nation for all South Sudanese people. However, without more funding now, that future is slipping further away and may not exist for many.

Political crisis turned violent

Cecilia Millan, Oxfam's Country Director in South Sudan, said:
“We will be staring into the abyss and fail to avert a famine if funds do not start arriving soon. This is a not a crisis caused by drought or flood. It is a political crisis turned violent. The people of South Sudan can only put their lives back together once the fighting ends. In the meantime civilians caught up in this crisis not of their making need our help. We are asking the public to help us with our urgent humanitarian work, but mainly we are calling on governments to fund the aid effort before it is too late.”

Families’ food stocks are low due to sharing with those displaced and in some cases food stocks have been looted during the course of the conflict. Food markets are not functioning and with trade routes hindered this is likely to further exacerbate the crisis. Destruction, looting and occupation of health facilities have impeded health services and many facilities lack essential supplies.

The aid effort is hampered not only by a lack of funds but also insecurity and poor roads and in some areas airdrops are the only way aid can get to people.

Aimee Ansari, Care International’s Country Director in South Sudan: “On the day I left Bentiu, CARE transported the bodies of three children who had died from malnutrition to a burial site. It was a brutal demonstration of the impact both of the insecurity and the lack of funding.”

Malnutrition rising

Tearfund reports the number of malnourished children and mothers needing food from its six feeding centres in remote communities in Jonglei, one of the country’s worst affected states, has more than quadrupled compared to this time last year. New admissions have doubled every month since March this year, a trend which is expected to rise in the coming months.

Kathleen Rutledge, Tearfund’s Country Director in South Sudan said:
“We are seeing unprecedented numbers of malnourished children and mothers in need of urgent help. Many are extremely weak, having walked for days to flee the fighting with no food or means to support their families.”

Perry Mansfield, director of World Vision’s programs in South Sudan said:
"We estimate that a quarter of a million children in South Sudan are at risk of severe malnutrition. Every delay in securing funds means higher risk of famine, higher risk of children being used as child soldiers, and a higher ultimate price tag to deal with this disaster. World Vision urgently needs to increase the tempo and scale of our response to the looming food crisis – a response that is becoming even more difficult as the rainy season leaves us fewer options to get food to those in need. "

Christian Aid has supported over 100,000 people so far and without additional funding it cannot provide the needed humanitarian assistance for over 150,000 people. With the anticipated famine and the increased primary and secondary displacements, this figure may rise further if the conflict persists in the coming months.

Women and children worst affected

Wendy Taeuber, IRC Country Director in South Sudan said:
“As food becomes more scarce, women are forced to take greater risks to try to feed their families. At times, this includes walking long distances to search for anything for their families to eat, to fetch firewood to use or to sell, and to look for water. Worsening food insecurity is placing women and girls at serious risks of sexual violence, exploitation and abuse.”

Save the Children said that in any conflict, children suffer most. In South Sudan, they have been the victims of terrible violence that has erupted around them and engulfed their communities. Hundreds of thousands have been made homeless. Many have seen friends, parents and family members attacked or killed. Thousands have been separated from their families and 2 million children will be facing a hunger crisis by the end of August. The current need is overwhelming, and our ability to respond to specific protection needs of children in particular has been hampered by the lack of funding.

Pete Walsh, Save the Children’s Country Director in South Sudan, said: “Save the Children’s feeding clinics are dealing with an influx of severely malnourished children. We urgently need to further funds to provide families with life-saving food supplements. South Sudan is a newly formed country and its first generation of children are eating potentially noxious berries just to survive another day. They need help and if we wait any longer, I fear all hope will be lost.”

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More information

Melanie Gallant
Media Relations Officer
Oxfam Canada


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