Millions still at risk of starvation in South Sudan, despite end of famine
World Vision ambassador Jerome Flynn says he is ‘changed forever’ after hearing heart-rending stories from war-scarred children in South Sudan.
Jerome met traumatised children last month on a fact-finding trip organised by international charity World Vision. South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, gaining independence in 2011. The East African country has been convulsed by a five-year long civil war which has killed at least 400,000 people. Over 19,000 children have been conscripted into various armed groups.
“Children told me about unimaginable horrors they had seen and experienced,” Jerome says. “Some children were kidnapped by armed groups and forced to fight and kill and watch other children get killed for not keeping up. Others fled torched homes and villages and sought refuge in camps for displaced people, with little food and no education. Many lost mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and were forced to make choices no child should have to make, just to survive.
"I met families torn apart because of the conflict and talked to parents who had sons and daughters snatched from them,” he continued. At times I found their stories of what they had to endure almost too painful to bear.
“Yet I also saw hope in a country ripped apart by war. Dedicated World Vision aid workers are helping desperate families stitch their lives together amid the chaos. I was blown away by the resilience of the children, humbled by their spirit, and inspired by their determination to find happiness.
“I saw how war costs children their innocence but does not always destroy their childhoods. The bravery of the children I met will stay with me forever.”
Full-blown conflict is likely to flare up again in South Sudan unless a national army of government and rebel forces is formed by May 12. More children and young people could then be forced into the bush to take up arms or flee the fighting.
Jerome says: “South Sudan’s latest peace deal is on a short fuse and the situation is desperate. Help is needed urgently to protect children from further violence. Sadly, there are thousands of children across the world who need support right now. Please give generously to help them.”
Jerome’s trip forms part of World Vision’s Made for More appeal for funds to protect the world’s most vulnerable children.
International children’s charity World Vision has warned that more people than ever are at risk of starvation in South Sudan, even though the war-torn country is no longer classified as being in famine.
A UN-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report released on Wednesday said famine is no longer occurring in Leer and Mayendit counties as a result of increased humanitarian assistance. Further deterioration was also prevented in Koch and Panyijiar counties which were previously classified as being “at risk of famine”, the IPC study noted.
However, with over 840,000 children under five years old still acutely malnourished, World Vision has urged the international community to scale up support to avert the East African country retreating back into famine.
While we applaud the success of the humanitarian community in responding to the famine-affected areas of South Sudan, it is vital that assistance is not slowed or downscaled. If this happens, these areas could easily slip back into famine again.
- Perry Mansfield, National Director of World Vision in South Sudan
"Higher levels of food insecurity will continue to spread to other areas of the country – putting at risk the lives of millions of the most vulnerable people, particularly children," Mansfield added.
“The crisis in South Sudan is by no means resolved. Severe food insecurity is still spreading, and at a higher rate than originally projected by analysts. The needs are still immense and require the continued support and generosity of the international community to save lives.”
Nearly half of South Sudan’s population (6 million people) are facing severe food insecurity – the highest figure ever recorded in the country. According to the UN, fighting has also displaced 3.6 million people.