Internally displaced people (IDPs) in camps across South Sudan are demanding more food aid to address unprecedented levels of hunger after the UN World Food Program (WFP) suspended assistance due to critical funding shortages, Anadolu News Agency reports.
According to the latest report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) initiative, around 7.74 million people in South Sudan, or about 60 per cent of the population, will face severe hunger at the height of the lean season between June and August.
The lean season, the period between harvests when households run out of stored food, normally falls between March and August, according to The New Humanitarian website.
The WFP was about to provide food aid to half of these people, but with the funding shortages, aid was suspended to nearly one-third of them, heightening the risk of starvation for 1.7 million people.
Dau Akoi Jurkuch, Chairman of the Mangala IDP Camp, which hosts 40,000 internally displaced persons, said the suspension came as a shock to residents because those who are in the camp are food insecure.
"Considering the (WFP's) global assessment (on food security), we are appealing to the government of the Republic of South Sudan to support IDPs in Mangala and also to continue to push the UN or WFP to continue providing the assistance," Jurkuch told Anadolu Agency.
"We are trying now to inform IDPs to cultivate, at least to have something supplementary to the food provided by the World Food Program," he said.
"Actually, we are aware about the crisis of the world, and we know that the WFP also has a shortage of funds, but the IDPs do not have other opportunities to get food. The situation will be worse. They do not have anything to support themselves, apart from relief."
Nyapur Koang, a mother of four living in the UN camp, said due to the suspension of food aid by the WFP, it will not be easy for them to get food since they depend on the aid.
She said it is time for the government of South Sudan to look closely at the needs of the people of South Sudan, since the WFP cut aid.
"We have stayed here for a very long time. We need peace to prevail so that we can focus on rebuilding our livelihoods," she added.
The food agency said widespread food insecurity is driven by conflicts, the coronavirus pandemic, flooding, drought and rising food prices that have worsened because of the war in Ukraine.
Adeyinka Badejo, acting Country Director of the WFP in South Sudan, recently said that humanitarian needs are far exceeding the funding received in 2022, noting that if the gap continues, more costly problems including increased mortality, malnutrition and disease will also increase.
"We are extremely concerned about the impact of the funding cuts on children, women and men who will not have enough to eat during the lean season. These families have completely exhausted their coping strategies. They need immediate humanitarian assistance to put food on the table in the short term and to rebuild their livelihoods and resilience to cope with future shocks," she said.
The WFP said it exhausted all options before suspending food assistance, including halving rations in 2021, leaving families with less to eat.
It warned that the latest reductions will also affect 178,000 school children, who will no longer receive daily school meals – a crucial safety net that helps keep South Sudanese children in school to learn and grow.
Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Minister, Peter Mayen Majongdit, said the WFP's announcement about cuts is sad news for more than 1 million people who are in dire need of food support.
Majongdit said the gap left by the aid cuts is huge and the government has no option but to care for its citizens.
He said the situation will worsen since the government is now tasked with lobbying for resources to cater to its people.
"The government is ready to partake in the responsibility of providing services and aid to the needy while urging people of goodwill to extend their helping hands towards the needy in the country," he said.