Food Insecurity in South Sudan has Reached Highest Levels Since Independence in 2011

21 September 2022

On the 9th of July 2011, a referendum was held to grant independence and a path to peace for South Sudan. Yet, this could be far from what unraveled after South Sudan became the world’s newest nation. A bitter civil war and a humanitarian crisis unfolded instead. South Sudan is currently facing the largest humanitarian food in the world. 75% of the population are facing severe food insecurity. Additionally, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation said, “15 million people face acute food insecurity across all of the East African country’s 18 province.” (1)

Food insecurity is defined as by Oxford Dictionary as (2) “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” Robust support and assistance are required to halt South Sudan’s plummet into an extreme hunger crisis. Without humanitarian assistance, 40% of the population in South Sudan could fall into food insecurity by September (1). To tackle the food crisis, an acknowledgement of the root causes is required.

An amalgamation of factors has contributed to growing food insecurity in South Sudan: climate change; violent conflict; displacement; rising food costs; and political turmoil. The current conditions in South Sudan are a breeding ground for the escalation of hunger and poverty.

Extreme flash floods and torrential rain is the first contributing factor. Flooding has not only destroyed homes and livelihoods but has also destroyed agricultural land and killed livestock. The sources of food have been either destroyed or damaged severely. The climate in South Sudan – dry, yet tropical climate – makes it extremely challenging to grow and sustain crops. This has also caused extreme problems for food security in South Sudan. Both drought and heavy flooding are common features of South Sudan’s climate which have proved an issue for growing and sustaining food supplies in the region. Those who rely on agriculture for their employment are disturbed greater by these climate changes, as they are left without food or income.

Violent conflict is also contributing to the escalation of the food crisis in South Sudan. In conflict-zones, cattle are stolen, and poaching occurs. This cuts off people’s source of food; leaving them with nothing to eat. The violence has forced people to flee so farmers are unable to plant or harvest crops causing massive food shortages nationwide.

The war in Ukraine is a recent development worsening the situation for South Sudan. Both the oil crisis and the effects of COVID-19 has caused an economic crisis which has worsened the hunger crisis. As well, due to international community’s focus heavily on the situation in Ukraine, other countries’ situations have been put on pause. In July, food aid cuts caused severe problems for South Sudan. BBC reported that two children and an adult died of starvation in South Sudan partly due to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) food aid cuts (4).

As discussed, a combination of factors in South Sudan: climate issues, violence conflict, the war in Ukraine and the political civil war, are all playing their role to contribute to the escalation of the food crisis in South Sudan. There are many factors at play which all interact together to exacerbate the crisis.

The most vulnerable groups in society – children, women, and disabled people – are bearing the brunt of the civil war, humanitarian crisis and food crisis. The crisis is forcing more and more people into refuge or asylum. Inside South Sudan alone there are approximately two million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and another two million displaced outside of the country (3).

Children make up most of the displaced population in South Sudan. Almost 65% of the refugee population is made up of children (3). Children are at greater risk of food insecurity also. Malnutrition can have long-lasting impact on health. Insufficient nutrition for children is especially damaging because it can stunt their future development. For instance, their cognitive potential may never be fully developed. Adequate nutrition is so important for children to guarantee they develop healthily and fully. One woman told World Vision “My youngest child would cry because there was insufficient milk from my breast” due to malnutrition (5). Mothers especially struggle due to food insecurity in South Sudan as they not only have to provide for themselves, but also for their children. Thus, it is imperative that humanitarian action in South Sudan cater the projects, aid and assistance to specific needs of certain groups, especially women and children.

Massive humanitarian intervention is required to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition in South Sudan. Rather than cutting food aid, it must be increased by international organisations. Provision of nutritious food to the communities in need is one method of assistance. Food aid in the form of agricultural supplies is also important to encourage sustainable growth and development for the future. Training on farming practices must be implemented too. Also, provision of shelter in the form of displacement camps is needed to protect citizens from violence. Vulnerable groups must be prioritised in this assistance. Likewise, healthcare facilities that specialise in treating malnutrition must be established. In addition, projects which prioritse training on agricultural practices and nutrition should be implemented by humanitarian organisations in South Sudan. Individuals must be empowered to grow their income and establish businesses to increase food security in the region. With the correct action it is possible to see a future for South Sudan where food insecurity is heavily decreased.

The situation in South Sudan has been escalating for a long time. Without severe intervention and assistance, it will only continue to worsen. Climate change, continued armed conflict, and the war in Ukraine make it worrying to question what the future for South Sudan holds. The situation will not improve without major intervention. World leaders and international organisations need to put the situation high on their agenda. With a plan of action which is put swiftly into motion for the future and development of South Sudan, only then can the nation see gradual improvements.

By Daisy Petrow, HART Intern


Although all blog posts are reviewed by an editorial team, our blog authors all write in a personal capacity and the views expressed are not necessarily those of HART.

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