First published with SYN News –

United Nations agencies declared famine in parts of South Sudan yesterday.

Over 100,000 people are facing starvation and one million have been classified on the brink of famine in parts of South Sudan.

UN agencies said urgent action was needed to prevent people dying of hunger and the situation could be improved if assistance was provided.

More than 40 per cent of South Sudan’s population (4.9 million people) are in need of food, agriculture and nutrition assistance, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification update.

A young girls runs to school at the UN Protection of Civilian Camp Bentiu, South Sudan. Thousands of people have fled as fighting intensifies. Picture: UNICEF.

Serge Tissot, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Representative in South Sudan, said famine had become a ‘tragic reality’ in parts of South Sudan.

“Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” he said.

“The people are predominantly farmers and war has disrupted agriculture.

“They’ve lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch.”

Widespread fighting, displacement, poor access to health services, and low coverage of sanitation facilities has exacerbated malnutrition.

Joyce Luma, World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director, said this famine was man-made.

“We have warned there is only so much humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security,” she said.

A young boy stands in his makeshift home that has been destroyed by fighting. Picture: UNICEF.

Three years of conflict has disrupted crop production and rural livelihoods.

Increased violence since July 2016 further devastated food production in areas previously stable.

Inflation up to 800 per cent each year has seen increased price rises on basic food items.

UNICEF aims to treat 207,000 children for severe acute malnutrition this year.

FAO provided emergency livelihood kits to around 2.3 million people and vaccinated more than six million livestock such as goats and sheep.

WFP plans to provide food and nutrition assistance to 4.1 million people through the hunger season in South Sudan, including lifesaving emergency food, cash and nutrition assistance for people displaced and affected by conflict, as well as community-based recovery or resilience programs and school meals.

A formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger.