For Second Year, USAID Continues Extraordinary Effort to Avert Famine in South Sudan

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By Dina Esposito, Director of USAID’s Office of Food for Peace

June 16, 2015

One year ago, I outlined five major steps USAID was taking to help beat back famine in South Sudan.  It included tapping an emergency fund known as the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust to dramatically scale up food assistance, supporting a massive UN airlift operation to move that food, and shipping U.S.-procured specialized food products to prevent and treat acute malnutrition. In large part because of U.S. efforts and extraordinary action taken by humanitarian actors on the ground, the world helped to avert famine in South Sudan last summer.

The fighting in South Sudan has displaced more than 2 million people, including Gadet, age 11, who fled to a refugee camp in Eth
The fighting in South Sudan has displaced more than 2 million people, including Gadet, age 11, who fled to a refugee camp in Ethiopia.
C. Tijerina/UNHCR

Once again, the “lean season” is upon us—the period between harvests when food is most scarce—and the South Sudanese people again face extreme hardship and hunger. After more than 18 months of civil war and a brutal uptick in fighting in recent weeks, an estimated 4.6 million people—roughly 40 percent of this young country’s population—are facing extreme life-threatening hunger. More than 2 million of them are physically displaced from their homes due to conflict.  

Fighting has destroyed many markets, devastated an already fragile economy and last year prevented planting of crops in 30 percent of some of the most conflict-affected areas. In markets that haven’t been destroyed, shelves are often bare. And where food is available, it is increasingly expensive due to currency devaluation and lack of supply.

“As South Sudanese face a second year of conflict, displacement and severe hunger, many have lost hope,” explains USAID South Sudan Disaster Assistance Response Team member Ron Savage. “The ongoing fighting makes it extremely difficult—and in some places impossible—for us to reach those in need.  Many people are eating only wild foods and drinking dirty water. Surviving each day is a struggle.” 

Today, the U.S. government continues its efforts to bring lifesaving help to South Sudan.  It announced an additional $133 million in humanitarian assistance, including nearly $98 million in food assistance. This brings U.S. emergency aid to the people of South Sudan since the crisis began in December 2013 to $1.2 billion.

With the most recent aid package to South Sudan, USAID is providing more than 44,000 MT of U.S. food assistance.
With the most recent aid package to South Sudan, USAID is providing more than 44,000 MT of U.S. food assistance.
R. Savage/USAID

This new aid package will include more than 44,000 tons of additional U.S. food that will be trucked, airlifted and ferried by boat to those who need it most.  It follows more than 200,000 tons of previously shipped U.S. food that is helping to keep millions of hungry—mostly women and children—alive in South Sudan.

The new aid package will also include 8,500 tons of food procured in the region, primarily in Uganda and Tanzania.  This regionally sourced food will arrive sooner than the U.S. food and will prevent a near term break in the humanitarian food supply at a time when hunger is at its peak.   Providing both U.S.-grown and regionally grown food is possible because over the past five years USAID’s toolbox for fighting hunger and malnutrition around the globe has expanded.  Today, in addition to shipping American-grown food to countries in need, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace has the authorities and funds to buy foods locally or regionally closer to a disaster, or to provide food vouchers or cash transfers if markets in disaster-affected countries are functioning.   As demonstrated in South Sudan, this blend of aid helps assure a speedy and effective response.

Underlying the tragic numbers of hunger and displacement is the fact that the current crisis was entirely avoidable.  Warring parties continue to put the struggle for power above the needs of its own people and in recent weeks there has been a terrible increase in direct attacks on humanitarian aid workers and supplies, leading to loss of life for relief workers and worsening conditions for those trapped by conflict.

While extraordinary lifesaving efforts continue, such sustained efforts are overstretching relief budgets even as they fail to sufficiently meet deteriorating conditions and ever growing need.  The South Sudanese people cannot afford another year of senseless fighting and extreme hunger.  The only sustainable solution is for warring parties to negotiate a sustainable and inclusive peace for the world’s newest country. The United States continues to urgently call on all parties to put the needs of their people first. 

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Last updated: August 01, 2017

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