The World's Youngest Nation Faces the World's Worst Food Crisis
As South Sudan Faces Humanitarian Crisis, Action Against Hunger Responds Assertively
South Sudan is currently struggling with the world’s worst food crisis, a crisis that is the result of conflict and political turmoil. Since December 2013, millions have fled their homes and over four million people do not have enough to eat. The displaced are mainly women and children, who fled the conflict with few possessions and little to no money. They want to return home, but many areas of the country remain engulfed by violence or the imminent threat of it.
Action Against Hunger has worked with vulnerable populations in what is now South Sudan for over twenty five years, responding to high malnutrition rates, a lack of clean water, and chronic food insecurity. Our presence in South Sudan today is as vital as it has ever been, and our emergency programs highlight this need. Our scaled-up emergency nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene programs, alongside our long-term nutrition and food security programs tackle the ongoing food crisis in South Sudan head on.
Action Against Hunger has responded in the five most vulnerable states of South Sudan—Unity, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap and Northern Bahr El Ghazal. We are working in both conflict states as well as chronic emergency states to address the increasing needs of the people of South Sudan.
Emergency Programs for Emergency Situations
In May 2014, we responded to a cholera outbreak in the capital city of Juba. At its peak, there were more than 100 new cases per week. Our cholera response team immediately began disinfecting households affected by cholera, rehabilitating water infrastructure in cholera-affected areas, holding mass cholera awareness sessions, and building the local capacity of local authorities and community-based organizations to respond to the outbreak. Now that the outbreak has subsided, our cholera team is focused on prevention, and is prepared to work anywhere in South Sudan if cases of cholera are confirmed.
Along with our cholera response programs, our nutrition programs are at the forefront of the response to this crisis. Our surveillance emergency team travels to some of the most remote areas of South Sudan collecting nutrition data to determine where children have the highest rates of malnutrition and what needs to be done to help. Our data collection is vital to the international community’s response to the food crisis in South Sudan and with UNICEF’s continued partnership, we will continue to assess the nutrition situation in South Sudan and provide the information necessary to save lives.
In close collaboration with our surveillance team, our nutrition emergency team works to save the lives of severely malnourished children and to build the capacity of local partners to respond. The team sets up outpatient therapeutic programs in the most critical areas, where they diagnose, treat, and prevent malnutrition in young children. Next, we train local partner organizations with the goal of transferring the therapeutic program to them. This practice allows our team to move on to other areas of high need while building local capacity.
In Bentiu, Unity State, we admitted close to 350 malnourished children, trained over 20 local volunteers and staff, and counseled over 1,400 people on health and nutrition. Once the outpatient therapeutic program was fully established, we transferred it to a partner organization. The nutrition team is now setting up new operations in Ayod County and Twic East, where people are living day to day under the threat of violence, with limited access to food, water, and livelihoods.
Our Programs for Chronic Issues
Even before the conflict, children in Warrap and Northern Bahr El Ghazal states were suffering from chronic malnutrition. Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution to ending hunger, we take a holistic approach—tackling both immediate threats and the root causes of hunger.
We fight waterborne illnesses that contribute to malnutrition. Our water, sanitation, and hygiene teams construct wells so communities have access to clean water. We build latrines for displaced families to help promote safe sanitation practices and train people on the importance of daily hygiene to prevent sickness.
Our food security and livelihood teams prevent hunger in the short-term with food and cash transfers, and ensure that crops can be replanted and livestock restocked in the future. We work to improve dietary diversity, staving off malnutrition with a richer, more diverse diet.
Help Us Save Lives in South Sudan
The conflict began in December 2013, and it has taken a devastating toll on millions around the country. We are dedicated to helping the people of South Sudan now and moving forward.
Action Against Hunger is one of the most effective humanitarian organizations in the world, but we can’t do this alone. Together, the global community—individuals and governments alike—must deepen their commitment to support the millions of South Sudanese whose lives are being permanently damaged by conflict, malnutrition, and disease.
All photos courtesy of ACF-South Sudan, Carla Fibla Garcia-Sala unless otherwise noted.