THE famine in South Sudan is being ignored by the international community, even though more than five million people in the country face starvation, aid agencies have warned. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), made up of 13 agencies, including Christian Aid and World Vision, said that a third of the money needed to help those facing severe hunger is missing.
Agencies say that they need a further £68.8 million to fund emergency work in the country. Levels of acute malnutrition among children have increased by 40 per cent in the first three months of this year.
A transitional government of national unity was finally formed in April, after 21 months of a brutal civil war. Millions of people have lost their livelihoods in the conflict; schools were destroyed, and many people are still displaced from their homes. South Sudan is also having to take in thousands of refugees fleeing violence in neighbouring Sudan.
The UN said that one of the regions most affected by hunger is the Upper Nile, which is home to four refugee camps and 134,000 Sudanese refugees.
About 3000 refugees fled Sudan for South Sudan last month, and tens of thousands more are expected, the UNHCR has warned. The majority of those arriving are women and children.
The DEC’s chief executive, Saleh Saeed, said: “I have just returned from South Sudan and, after years of horrific conflict, our member agencies are desperate to support people to survive and rebuild their lives. Instead, some may be forced to cut back their work due to a lack of funds.
“Communities need food, clean water, and healthcare. We should be supporting people to not just survive but to return home when they feel safe to do so, to plant crops, replace livestock, and restart their businesses. We won’t be able to do all this without more funding.
“We are very concerned that despite some strong news coverage of the situation, public awareness of the crisis in the UK remains very low. This makes appealing for funds very difficult for our members, and currently prevents the DEC from launching its own appeal.”
He said that the UK was one of the most generous donors.
The charity Samaritan’s Purse has launched its own appeal for South Sudan, “Turn on the Tap”, to raise more than half a million pounds to help provide clean water to 35,000 people (News, 8 April). It says that seven out of ten people in the country do not have access to safe drinking water.