OTTAWA/MISSISSAUGA, ON (October 6, 2014) – A group of leading aid agencies warned today that parts of South Sudan, which are already facing a severe food crisis, could fall into famine early next year if the conflict between warring factions escalates.
The agencies, which include CARE, Oxfam and World Vision, fear that efforts this year to prevent the crisis from deteriorating will falter as rival sides are ready to resume violence once the rainy seasons ends this month. The number of people facing dangerous levels of hunger is expected to increase by 1 million between January and March 2015.
In a report launched today, “From Crisis to Catastrophe”, the agencies are calling for neighbouring governments and the wider international community to redouble diplomatic efforts to put pressure on the parties to the conflict to end the fighting, including an arms embargo. They also want an increase in both the quantity and quality of the aid effort.
“If famine comes to South Sudan it will come through the barrel of a gun,” says Ann Witteveen of Oxfam Canada. “This is a man-made crisis not one caused by the vagaries of the weather and though humanitarian aid is vital it cannot fix a political problem.”
“The international community has a responsibility to act in the face of clear signs that the situation will only deteriorate. Quiet diplomacy will not save the thousands facing potential famine in a few short months,” adds CARE Canada’s president and CEO Gillian Barth. “We all know that the window of opportunity to avert a famine is rapidly closing.”
The aid agencies says a mixture of significant aid, a lull in the fighting due to the wet season and the ability of the South Sudanese to cope with hardship, has managed to stave off a famine for the moment. However they warned that now that the wet season is over, an upsurge in fighting is likely, setting back any gains made in the last few months and potentially pushing areas into famine by March 2015.
“South Sudanese families, trying to provide food for their children, are running out of options. Many have sold their precious livestock, a temporary solution to a much bigger problem. Eating seeds meant for planting keeps the gnawing hunger away for the moment, but it is mortgaging the future to meet the desperate needs of the present,” says World Vision Canada’s president and CEO Dave Toycen. “Hope for the people of South Sudan is an end to the fighting so normal life can resume.”
Many of the 1.4 million people displaced from their homes are facing an uncertain future. The fighting has disrupted markets and pushed up food prices. Fishermen have been barred from rivers, cattle herders have had their cattle stolen, or been forced to sell them off cheaply. The expected upsurge in fighting once the rains have ended in October will tip many over the edge.
The aid agencies are calling for donor governments to fully support the UN’s appeals for humanitarian work in South Sudan and the refugee crisis in neighbouring countries. They also want the government of South Sudan, the opposition and other armed groups to immediately stop fighting and work towards a long-term, sustainable peace deal. All military forces need to stop attacks against civilians, end the use of child soldiers and allow humanitarian workers safe access to people needing their help.
For more information, or to get a copy of the report, media may contact:
Melanie Gallant – Oxfam – 613-240-3047– *protected email*
Marie-Jo Proulx- CARE – 613-799-7562 – *protected email*
Bob Neufeld – World Vision Canada – 647-622-2045 – *protected email*