Updates from Mercy Corps on the Famine in South Sudan
This year has seen the UN declare the first famine in six years. Declaring that families living in parts of South Sudan to be suffering the darkest form of food insecurity; where 30% of the population is acutely malnourished and where men, women and children are dying simply as a result of lack of food. While this was downgraded by June, the situation on the ground remains dire. Like South Sudan, the threat of famine has loomed over Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia throughout 2017.
Famine is rare; that four countries are at risk is so significant – we must act now.
Until very recently, Deepmala Mahla was our Country Director of South Sudan and she shared with me Choung’s story, and I would like to share her story with you.
Chuong is a mother of six. She was forced to flee her home county to protect her children from the fierce fighting in South Sudan’s ongoing civil war. The family travelled by canoe for five days, through mosquito swarms and treacherous floodwater, until they reached a place that they felt safe and a place that has become their home. This ‘home’ is a basic shelter covered in plastic sheeting where she waits with her family.
What are they waiting for? Chuong says they are waiting until they can return to their village. But until then, they are waiting for help and for food. They came here empty-handed and have no way of making any money with which to buy anything to eat. “We are free from the fighting,” Chuong says, “but we are still facing many challenges.”
Chuong, like many others, is feeling the bitter effects of South Sudan’s severe food shortages. It is not uncommon for families here to eat just one meal a day, with parents going hungry so their children can be fed. People are eating bark, moss and leaves – anything for just a little nutrition.
There is no one simple solution to famine. A decade ago natural disaster was the driver of 80 percent of the world’s humanitarian needs. Today a human-made disaster is the leading cause - conflict. Food insecurity and hunger look different in every instance. However, it is no coincidence that Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria are all embroiled in violent conflict.
At Mercy Corps we know that we cannot solve hunger until we address the larger problems that drive it such as conflict, poverty, poor health and weak governance. So we work to meet urgent needs and build a stronger tomorrow.
Today we are responding to the urgent needs of an estimated 780,000 people across South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia. Beyond these crises, we are working with communities around the world to build resilience, reduce the risk of starvation and help build stronger, healthier futures.
We achieve this by connecting people to information, to local markets, to small business loans, to the seeds to plant their own garden, to accurate weather information to protect their herds and to the opportunity to earn their own income – From Niger to Guatemala, Syria and beyond we have helped families around the world become more food- secure.
We take on the world toughest challenges because we believe a better world is possible, because we believe in a world without famine and because the innocent families caught in these crises need our help.
We are not giving up the fight against global hunger and we invite you to join us.