The Republic of South Sudan is the youngest nation in the world. However, their independence didn’t come with some backlash. Since it has gained independence from Sudan in 2011, they’ve been in a three year long civil war. The prolonged civil war and economic crisis has caused famine to be declared in Leer and Mayendit counties in Greater Unity region.
On February 21, 2017, “A formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger,” said the statement by the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The formal declaration shows that approximately 4.9 million people in South Sudan are in need of urgent food, agriculture, and nutrition assistance. Yet, these looming disasters have failed to receive the attention they deserved, until international response was too late.
Due to the civil war, there has been an 800% increase in inflation causing food prices to skyrocket. This has not only caused a disruption in farming, but has left many people to scavenge food for survival. To put this in perspective, over 1 million children under the age of 5 years old are malnourished. As of January, UNICEF has treated over 12,000 of these children with malnutrition and expect to see an additional 25,000 more every month.
While treatment can keep a child from dying, this does not undo the lasting affects malnutrition will have on them. “The children are damaged for life. And the whole country is robbed of its potential,” said UNICEF’s deputy director of emergency operations, Yasmin Haque.
UN officials are expecting the famine to spread to Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen, which will affect an additional 1 million people. However, the cost to help these countries isn’t cheap. “$4.4 billion will be needed by the end of next month to avert the catastrophe in South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, and Somalia,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.