Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Famine in South Sudan

by Philippa Noble

This week the first famine in six years was officially declared. South Sudan, the world’s youngest country is now home to around 100,000 starving people with another million on the brink of famine. Almost half of South Sudan’s population is expected to be affected by severe food shortages in the next few months. There are worries that this could easily spread through the whole country. Meanwhile, other countries such as Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria are all close to famine.

On 9th July 2011, South Sudan declared independence from Sudan, after a civil war spreading across the majority of half a century. At this time, the EU pledged €200m to help South Sudan with development between 2011-2013. The UN also launched a mission to oversee and support the development process. Yet, despite this investment and aid civil war broke out in 2013 when President Kiir accused his rival, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup. This civil war is now more than 3 years long and has greatly impacted this already unstable country and economy. Not only has the war undermined crop production, there has also been severe inflation. Furthermore, in 2016 food and soft drinks prices spiked by 778.6%. Until recently, humanitarian aid was restricted to areas in need after government officials blocked the delivery of food to certain areas in the country.

In 2013, the war began with a power struggle between politicians and escalated after violence between rebel groups and the government began. In South Sudan, there is such a prominent military culture that the use of violence is often used before legal routes are taken. However, the authority of state officials has been undermined since many have been involved in land-grabbing following the declaration of independence. Some believe this is a leading cause of the war (for example, Shinichi Takeuchi) as this only reflects how local disputes over land are commonly settled in South Sudan. In terms of ending the war, numerous ceasefires have been agreed and broken – prompting further drops in the Sudanese Pound. In addition, Obama has waivered the application of the CSPA (Child Soldier Prevention Act) that would stop weapons trading or military aid to countries using child soldiers such as Sudan. This was said to have been used as peacekeeping, although it appears to be continually feeding the war. The CSPA was not only waivered last year, but in every year since the fighting broke out in 2013.

The famine that is threatening the lives of half the South Sudanese population is naturally more devastating in the most underdeveloped counties (such as Unity). Since the famine was declared, the UK has pledged £100m and the EU has offered €82m but some are wary over how quickly these funds will reach those starving. Unicef and Oxfam are asking for donations to help the crisis and for both you can donate directly to food and health supplies for the South Sudanese in need. We are yet to see what a world-wide effort can do to help this situation, hopefully soon South Sudan will begin to improve after its loss of control over three years ago.

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