South Sudan faces food shortages due to violence, rain

Posted: September 26, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

Written by Reuters Monday, 26 September 2011 12:43

altSouth Sudan faces severe food shortages because the new African nation will produce less than half the food it needs to feed its population this year due to heavy rains and widespread violence, the United Nations said.

South Sudan won independence from Khartoum on July 9 under a 2005 agreement that ended decades of civil war. But it has been struggling to end tribal and rebel violence in several parts of a country the size of France, Reuters reports.

The number of South Sudanese requiring food assistance from aid agencies will rise next year to 1.2 million people from 970,000 now because agricultural output has been hit by the violence and rain, according to the U.N.

"It’s not worrying, it’s alarming," Lise Grande, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, told Reuters in an interview in the southern capital Juba late on Thursday. The country has a population of 8 million.

In a best-case scenario South Sudan will produce 420,000 to 500,000 tonnes of food in 2011, a deficit of more than half a million tonnes, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). In 2010, the food deficit was 300,000.

"The situation in the first year of statehood is extremely alarming. Progress on state-building agenda, peace-building and reconciliation is at risk if we can’t get the food security situation under control," Grande said.

Violence in two border states in north Sudan and the closure of several border crossings to the south has blocked roads and commercial traffic to the south, choking off supplies.

At the same time 341,000 southerners have returned home since October from Sudan where they were treated as foreigners after independence.

Around 300,000 people have abandoned their homes and farms this year due to tribal or rebel violence that has killed around 3,000, Grande said. "If you add all that up, you’re looking at a very dangerous situation," she said.

"Unless steps are taken right now to cover that (food) deficit, we could see a sharp increase in acute and severe acute malnutrition and a sharp increase in the number of households that are food-insecure," Grande said.

FAO officials said a drought in the Horn of Africa has increased the price of food in the landlocked nation.

"We made several gains and an overall improvement (in food production) in 2010," said Mtendere Mphatso, an official at FAO, referring to the output of 700,000 tonnes last year.

"All these gains are being reversed and the key drivers are insecurity and erratic rainfall."

Being much less developed than the north, oil-producing South Sudan needs rapidly to build infrastructure and state institutions while trying to feed its population.

The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said it was facing a budget shortfall of $21 million, or 13,500 tonnes, to fund food assistance in South Sudan.

"We are facing a serious food and budget shortfall which affects our ability to reach all those who need our assistance," WFP spokeswoman Amor Almagro said.

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