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Southern Sudan Faces Severe Food Shortages

Immediate and longer-term assistance needed to prevent hunger and malnutrition crisis
Low rainfall in Southern Sudan led to an unusually poor harvest, courtesy J. Seagle, Counterpart Images

MALOUALKON, SOUTHERN SUDAN—Food stocks are running out in areas of Southern Sudan that experienced unusually poor harvests this year, Action Against Hunger | ACF International announced today. To fill immediate needs, vulnerable populations are resorting to coping strategies that could jeopardize next year’s harvest and put their long-term food security and livelihoods at risk. In Southern Sudan for over two decades, the international organization is calling for a robust package of emergency and longer-term assistance to avert a humanitarian crisis.

In Warrap and Northern Bahr El Ghazal (NBEG) states, food reserves from the November harvest will be consumed by the end of this month, or in some cases, are already depleted, according to Action Against Hunger’s assessments. As a result, this year’s “hunger gap”—the period of routine scarcity between harvests—will last on average seven months, twice the typical length of time for this region. To fill the gap, cash-strapped families are consuming grains normally set aside as seed reserves for the next planting season, and will likely sell their few productive assets to buy food at the local markets, leaving them without the means for future agricultural production.

“People are already skipping meals, and we have every reason to believe that the poorest families will resort to desperate measures like selling their land or migrating out of the area in search of food,” said Silke Pietzsch, Action Against Hunger’s Senior Food Security & Livelihoods Advisor for the region. “If no outside assistance is provided, this downward spiral could have a devastating, long-term impact on families already affected by decades of conflict.”

Last spring, an extended dry spell delayed the planting season by several weeks, which severely hampered crop production. According to the Action Against Hunger assessment, the harvests in Warrap state on average produced enough food for only four months of the year; in NBEG, the average harvest provided families with food for fewer than two months. High food prices and insufficient household income are also contributing factors to growing food insecurity.

In response, Action Against Hunger has scaled up its nutrition, food security, and livelihoods programs in the region; however, the population’s needs far outstrip the resources available. Action Against Hunger is calling for urgent funding for the following measures to facilitate short- and longer-term food access and availability:

  • Immediate food assistance for affected households;
  • Large-scale seed and tool distributions to support the 2010 agricultural season;
  • Surveillance and early warning systems to detect and predict levels of food insecurity and malnutrition;
  • Cash transfer programs and support for small businesses and diversified livelihoods; and
  • Investments in social and hunger safety net programs to prevent future spikes in food insecurity and malnutrition.

Action Against Hunger has worked in Sudan since 1985, implementing programs in nutrition, food security, livelihoods, water, and sanitation.

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