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Aid cuts will cost lives in S. Sudan, religious leader warns

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Sudanese refugees in a refugees camp in Maban, South Sudan (WFP Photo)

March 20, 2021(NAIROBI) – Severe cuts to British aid budget to South Sudan will cost lives as the country teeters on the brink of famine, the Archbishop of Wales, Rev. John Davies warned.

In a joint appeal with Christian Aid, the religious leader called on the British government to halt its proposed 59% cut in aid to South Sudan, arguing that it would “tip the country into deep crisis”.

“I understand the need for fiscal responsibility, but these are the wrong cuts, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons. Be it carelessly or deliberately, these cuts will harm vulnerable people. We must not balance the books on the backs of the poorest in our world. In the name of all that is good, Prime Minister, please stop these cuts,” the appeal reads in part.

A joint letter from Christian Aid and 84 other charities, including Tearfund and Plan UK, urged Britain to rethink the cuts.

More than eight million people are reliant on humanitarian aid, and 60 per cent of South Sudan’s population is reaching crisis levels of hunger, the UN has said. It says that it needs $1.7 billion (£1.2 billion) to help those most in need in the country, including the 1.2 million children and nearly 500,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women who are acutely malnourished.

“Approximately 7.2 million South Sudanese have been pushed into severe food insecurity due, again, to sporadic violence, extreme weather, and the economic impact of Covid-19,” World Food Programme spokesperson, Tomson Phiri said.

“This figure includes over 100,000 people who are in those hard-to-reach areas of six counties who are at risk of famine. They are literally one step away from famine, according to the Famine Review Committee report,” he added.

For his part, Tearfund’s country director for South Sudan, Anthony Rama, said last season’s crops had been washed away by floods, and there were fears that such floods could happen again.

“About half the population is in dire need of food assistance. We have endured years of intercommunal conflicts, and now Covid has disrupted trade and weakened our fragile health-system’s ability to treat people,” said Rama.

He added, “There are severe food shortages in all of the areas in which we work.”

South Sudan has been struggling to recover from five years of war that killed almost 400,000 people, according to reports. A coalition government formed last year between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar is implementing a peace deal behind schedule, while deadly violence continues in parts of the country.

(ST)

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