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South Sudan on brink of catastrophe as famine declared

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​First famine since 2011 will bring misery and death on a huge scale - and action must be taken

The international community must do more to resolve the crisis in South Sudan, Christian Aid has warned following the declaration of famine in parts of the country.

The famine – the world’s first since 2011 – was formally announced on Monday in parts of Unity State, where some 100,000 people are facing starvation.

A further 1 million are classified as being on the brink of famine.

Without immediate action, the crisis will continue to claim lives.

Speaking from Juba, Christian Aid’s South Sudan country manager Rosie Crowther said: “For many, many months Christian Aid and our local partners have been sounding the alarm about the escalating humanitarian catastrophe here in South Sudan. Our worst fears have now become a devastating reality.

“After more than three years of conflict and insecurity, we have seen communities stretched to breaking point. The economy has collapsed, malnutrition has soared and hunger has taken a firm hold.

“Some 3.4 million women, men and children are displaced from their homes.

“I have witnessed first-hand the incredible resilience of South Sudanese people in the face of so many crises. However, many people have now exhausted their coping mechanisms. As a result, tens of thousands could die of starvation, and millions do not know where their next meal is coming from.

“Tragically, this crisis was utterly preventable. This declaration of famine in Unity State is a harsh wake-up call. The international community must do more to address the plight of the South Sudanese people. The situation will continue to deteriorate rapidly if we don’t act now. We can, and must, do more.”

This crisis is the result of over three years of conflict in the world’s newest nation.

Although steps towards peace are finally being taken, violence and instability continue amidst severe humanitarian needs.

Christian Aid partners have been providing aid to families displaced or affected by ongoing violence in Unity State for some time.

The charity said it is ready to intensify its emergency response, and has issued a plea for extra funds for its South Sudan crisis appeal.

Crowther added: “Our local partners have courageously continued to provide humanitarian assistance in some of the worst-affected and most remote parts of South Sudan: they have stuck with communities even after other aid agencies have left. We will keep supporting them to help those now on the brink of catastrophe.

“However, any short-term relief efforts must be accompanied by long-term efforts to bring lasting and sustainable peace. That’s why Christian Aid and our partners here will continue helping South Sudanese communities and leaders to take concrete steps towards peace and reconciliation. We will continue to stand alongside the people of South Sudan.’

In Unity State, Christian Aid partner Unido has been distributing fishing gear to give people an immediate means of finding nutritious food. UNIDO is also repairing boreholes to provide access to safe water, as well as providing shelter materials, seeds and farming tools to families.

To find out more about Christian Aid’s crisis appeal for South Sudan, visit their website.