Home | News    Thursday 6 October 2011

South Sudan warns food crisis developing into famine


By Ngor Arol Garang

October 6, 2011 (JUBA) - South Sudan said Wednesday that the ongoing food crisis in the newly independent country could develop into a famine if no immediate remedies are taken.

Joseph Lual Acuil, South Sudan’s minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management told a weekly media briefing in Juba that “lower harvests due to unreliable rains coupled with the rising food prices world-wide, have created a severe food shortage leaving more than 1.3 million in need of food aid."

As of September 26 the UN estimate that 342,000 South Sudanese have returned to the country since last autumn, many of whom require food aid. In July South Sudan seceded from the north following a referendum in January.

The minister said that the greater Equatoria region had been the worst effected by the late rains this year. Insecurity, returnees from north Sudan and newly displaced people from the contested region Abyei and Jonglei state have all added to the food crisis.

Acuil said his ministry has attempted to address the problem by sending aid to Agok in Northern Bahr el Ghazal where many of the 110,000 people displaced from Abyei and its surrounding areas are residing.

“I just spoken to the chief administrator and he confirmed arrival of some of the trucks", the minister said.

Flash floods in Agok in early September "compounded an already difficult situation for people displaced by conflict in Abyei in May this year" a recent UN report said.

"Food insecurity of the affected households continued to be of concern as the people displaced from Abyei are largely dependent on food assistance" the September 26 report found.

The minister also said that food aid was also being sent to Uror county in Jonglei State, where fighting in August killed around 600 people and displaced over 20,000, the UN estimates.

Minister Acuil described the food gap as more serious than normal humanitarian reports issued in South Sudan about people habitually defined as “food insecure.”

"The people at ‘severe risk’ may either not have enough food to eat, enough money to buy seed to plant or enough money to buy food. The prices are increasing almost every hour. I am in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal, nobody can get food at eleven o’clock in the morning because people queue up at the restaurant and other local hotels for food”, the minister added.

In many parts of the Republic of South Sudan, he said, food prices have gone up due drought and the closure of supply routes with north Sudan after partition. The situation is especially bad in the areas closest to the border with Sudan.

An agreement between North and South Sudan to create ten points for trade and for people to move between the two countries has yet to be implemented.

Minister Acuil said his government was working with donors to invest in irrigation systems to increase crop production.

"Urgent action is needed to prevent a looming humanitarian and food crisis in this country", said Acuil.

He added that more than 11,000 people returning to South Sudan are in Renk awaiting transportation, explaining that local resources have been overstretched.

WFP build feeder roads to open up markets in Lakes state

In order to address the food shortages the United Nations World Programme (WFP) is helping South Sudan’s government by constructing new roads to improve humanitarian access and allow agriculture goods to be brought to market.

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Lakes state governor Tong Mayay inspects construction of a new road in Rumbek East County. October 3, 2011 (Photo: Lydia Stone/WFP)

Lakes state Governor Chol Tong Mayay, speaking at the inauguration of two roads being built in Rumbek East County, pledged unconditional support and cooperation of his administration to facilitate humanitarian operations in the area.

The two new roads link local farmers to markets marking the beginning of a three-year partnership between the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the South Sudan Ministry of Transport to build a total of 500 kilometres of feeder roads to help boost agriculture development.

The two roads, totaling 114 km, will connect the villages of Karich with Amok Piny and Aluakluak with Akuoc Cok, providing farmers with better access to markets. The project is being carried out in close cooperation with the Ministry for Roads and Bridges and local government authorities.

“We are proud to be starting the construction of this road, which will connect food producers to markets and will connect isolated communities,” said Mayay, in a statement sent to Sudan Tribune.

“It is the beginning of development in our newly independent country. It is the beginning of service delivery. After having fought for so many years it is like a dream coming true.”

Speaking to Sudan Tribune on Wednesday in Juba, Lydia Stone, a senior WFP staff member explained that road construction is a key part of WFP’s support to South Sudan to enable the nascent country to overcome some of the obstacles to developing agriculture.

“Feeder roads link areas with high agricultural potential to trunk roads and will provide farmers with easier access to markets for their crops, thereby stimulating production and trade”, she said.

In the statement Kuoi Maluach, the chief of Paloich, one of the remote villages connected by the new road said: “We suffer from insecurity and a lack of services. If a woman is having trouble giving birth, we have to transport her to the clinic by bicycle. The road will change everything. It will give us access to trade and services”.

Stone said Chris Nikoi, WFP’s new country director, plans to build 500 km of feeder roads throughout South Sudan, especially in areas with high food production.

She named Western Equatoria as one of the states WFP plans to help the government construct feeder roads to facilitate local farmers access markets with their produce.

“South Sudan has tremendous agricultural potential and yet only 4 percent of arable land is currently cultivated. The building of feeder roads throughout South Sudan is an absolute necessity if this country is to be able to rapidly produce enough food for its citizens and to eventually realise its great potential in agriculture.”

The two roads in Rumbek East are being built with funding from the South Sudan Recovery Fund. WFP has contracted the German organization GIZ to undertake the construction works which will be completed by July 2012. To ensure the long life of the feeder roads, local authorities and communities are being trained in road maintenance. Since 2004, WFP has repaired 2,600 km of trunk road, linking eight out of the ten state capitals and connecting South Sudan to Uganda and Kenya via four different routes.

The two feeder roads are being constructed as part of the Lakes State Stabilisation Programme, a joint UN programme under the ownership of the government of South Sudan. The programme aims to show the benefits of peace and encourage the participation and empowerment of communities affected by conflict and poverty.

Unity state: Food costs double in 2 months

Customers in Unity state have told Sudan Tribune reporter Bonifacio Taban Kuich that the cost of some basic food products have doubled since South Sudan became independent in July.

Traders and retailers say that they are not to blame for the increase in prices of food and other goods due to the long distances they have to travel and the increase in fuel prices. Landlocked South Sudan has to import almost all of its food and other goods including petrol.

Despite being an oil producing country South Sudan has no refinery or processing plant so it has to send its oil to be exported through North Sudan. Juba accuses Khartoum of the blocking the world’s newest international border forcing price rises especially in border states like Unity. In September the two countries agreed to establish ten entry check points in order to facilitate the movement for goods and people.

After South Sudan’s secession many traders from North Sudan returned to the North leaving locals to step in to fill the gap. Women in Rubkotna town have taken over businesses from Darfuri traders including vegetable sales.

One of the women, Nyayang Nhial, said a bundle of ground okra that cost 1 South Sudanese Pound (SSP) two months ago now costs 2 SSP.

"Before the local perfumes cost 20 SSP but now reached up to 50 SSP", said Nhial who started working in 2005 after her husband died in a car accident.

Customers told Sudan Tribune that almost everything in the market had doubled in price.

Viviana Philip, a customer at the market said she cannot afford to feed her family properly. Items like slippers have risen from 10 SSP to 25 SSP over the last two months, she said while asking the government to intervene.

Local butcher Latjor Wiyoak said that meat prices have also increased from 10 SSP to 12 SSP a kilo. He said traders had been forced into the price hike as otherwise they would make a loss.

Businesses in South Sudan face many challenges. Poor roads and insecurity make it difficult to move goods around the county and river transport can take weeks.

As most traders in South Sudan were from the North before independence many South Sudanese are not as experienced at importing goods from abroad which inevitably involves using much sort-after hard currency.

President Salva Kiir of South Sudan announced this week that he would hold a meeting with his northern counterpart Omar Hassan al-Bashir on the issue of price rises and rampant inflation.


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  • 6 October 2011 08:14, by Anyangaliec

    Dear MPS,

    Stops issuing these stark warnings and get down to the real business of picking it so urgently. It’s too dires now, and will eventually be too diaboblical if you guys failed to addressed it cause now rather later.

    repondre message

  • 6 October 2011 08:23

    This is a man-made drought so, the government of South Sudan should take the case to the International Court at Hague against the Global Pollutors Europe, USA, Russia, China, India and Australia. Although there are others, these mentioned countries are the major Pollutors and must be held accountable for loss of Rain in Africa.

    repondre message

  • 6 October 2011 10:37, by Aturjong

    the should start doing something before this particular cost of living shooting high and rocket the sky. it is the government responsibility to address the food prices before it is deteriorate. failure to address it will lead into disaster.

    repondre message

  • 6 October 2011 22:45, by kimatong

    "Urgent action is needed to prevent a looming humanitarian and food crisis in this country",
    Surprise! Our government did not see this coming! Instead of making food security the number one priority, guess what did it do, it made the relocation of the capital city an important matter. What a bunch of mindless people!

    repondre message

  • 7 October 2011 09:12, by Francis Ogwacir

    I fully agree with the statement attibuted to the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs about the looming famine in South Sudan if urgent intervention measures were not taken. The issue had already been raised. What I do not seem to understand is Minister’s claim that " greater Equatoria region had been the worst effected by the late rains this year" is not in accord with the facts. Plse crosscheck.

    repondre message

  • 7 October 2011 09:19, by ohide

    The recent Rapid Cros Assessment (RCA) indicates that the only states which were better off in terms of food secuirty were the three states in Greater Equatoria. The Minister therefore has to crosscheck his information so that any intervention has to address the trully food insecure population.

    repondre message

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