4 May 2012 - The peace between Sudan and South Sudan was not to be, at least not for long. Even after the Republic of South Sudan’s independence last July, tensions remained high between the former civil war combatants. Oil fields—mainly located along the contested border region—became the focal point in a play for power that has intensified into violent clashes over last month. After months of border skirmishes between the two countries, South Sudan seized a disputed oil field in Heglig earlier this month, prompting the north’s retaliation.
Last Thursday, the United Nations drafted a Security Council resolution to make legally binding an African Union demand that Sudan and South Sudan stop clashes along the border and resume peace talks. Whether or not the resolution passes—and if it does, whether or not it has any impact—remains to be seen. But what’s clear—resolution or no resolution, warfare or none—is that the region, especially where we are working in South Sudan, suffers from a vast underlying humanitarian crisis, one that requires continued attention and an aggressive humanitarian response.
Nearly half the population of South Sudan is food insecure, and malnutrition rates are alarmingly high. South Sudan also has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Only 4% of the nation’s arable land has been cultivated. The country is also facing a deficit in its agricultural production, suffering from a lack of rainfall due to late rains in October and November 2011. Food stocks from that harvest only lasted two months and predictions for this year’s rainy season are also poor. Water is in surplus across South Sudan but access, quality and distribution are highly problematic. Epidemics and waterbourne diseases remain in abundance and there is urgent need to develop sustainable water management systems.
Market access and food availability have also emerged as problems. Food stocks are depleted, driving people to market sooner; at market staple food prices have more than doubled from last year in most areas, making them inaccessible to many families. In addition, much of South Sudan’s food supply has historically come from Khartoum in the north; now that supply route has been cut off. South Sudan has few roads suitable for high-volume transportation between the capital, Juba, and the northern part of the country. Transfers from Darfur occur but are spottysporadic, and a road from Uganda—the only viable neighbor with food to provide, other than Sudan—is in progress but far from complete. As a result, a growing number of families have been priced out of the market with few alternatives for feeding themselves. Access is particularly an issue in Warrap and Unity states, where most of the roads will become inaccessible during the impending rainy season. If we don’t beat the rains to deliver assistance, it will become increasingly difficult to reach affected populations.
-Silke Pietzsch, Technical Director, Action Against Hunger
In South Sudan, one child in every eight dies from malnutrition before the age of five. Last year, nearly 23,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition benefited from ACF’s nutritional programmes. In 2012, ACF will strengthen its prevention programmes and scale up its work with acutely malnourished children.
Our operations in South Sudan have more than tripled in size over the past three years — an indication of the scope of humanitarian needs. It’s imperative that those involved in peace negotiations facilitate humanitarian access to displaced populations in the border regions, as well as in the three protocol areas. We’re committed to expanding our programmes and beneficiary reach, despite the difficult security context.
With your ongoing support, we can and will continue these efforts to help the South Sudanese build safe, secure and healthy lives.
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