22 APR 2014
South Sudan warning: Respond to humanitarian crisis now or face a larger catastrophe later
The safety of 7 million people in South Sudan is rapidly deteriorating. Oxfam says the government of South Sudan and parties to the conflict must immediately agree to a ceasefire. The international community needs to step up efforts to help stop the conflict, and save lives with a massive injection of emergency aid.
Oxfam has joined 21 other agencies to publish a report, “Loaded Guns and Empty Stomachs”.
“How many lives have to be lost before the parties to the conflict silence their guns and donors respond with more resources? We either act now or face an even larger human catastrophe in the weeks and months to come,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.
The United Nations is due to update its official food security analysis early next month. Up to 7 million people are at risk of severe food insecurity in the coming year unless they get more help. More than 1 million people have fled their homes because of fighting, 270,000 of them to neighbouring countries. Markets and health facilities have been destroyed. Getting aid to people has been very difficult, and in some areas impossible. Cropping patterns have been disrupted. Not enough seeds have been planted. Seasonal rains are making things worse.
The agencies say that before the latest conflict erupted in December, South Sudan’s food security situation looked promising, although still vulnerable. But the fighting has sparked a humanitarian crisis, displacing 1 million people and plunging many more into hunger.
“The international community seems to have been stunned by how fast things have deteriorated. It is struggling to find a coherent way to respond,” Byanyima said. “We need to learn from the mistakes of the past, not to repeat them. Mass death needs not be inevitable for South Sudan, but we can’t put our trust in hope and good luck. We need action.”
A significant food and nutrition crisis is underway. “There are already alarming rates of malnutrition. There is still time to prevent the worst from happening,” Byanyima said. A severely malnourished child is nine times more likely to die without treatment than a well-nourished one. In January, the number of malnourished children in Jonglei and Upper Nile feeding centres was already double that a year before.
The donor’s conference in Oslo on 20 May gives the international community an opportunity to negotiate an end to the conflict and scale up food assistance. Currently, the US$655.2 million food cluster appeal is only 25.4 per cent funded. Oxfam is working in six areas of South Sudan, from the capital of Juba to the northern town of Melut, and has helped 130,000 people caught up in the crisis. Oxfam is also helping refugees with water and sanitation in Uganda and Gambella, Ethiopia.