A young girl holds her baby sister during a WFP food and nutrition distribution in Farajallah, South Sudan.
WFP/Lara Atanasijevic
A young girl holds her baby sister during a WFP food and nutrition distribution in Farajallah, South Sudan.

5.1 million

food-insecure people

1.9 million

internally displaced people

276,000

severely malnourished children

The Situation

In July 2011, the Republic of South Sudan gained independence from Sudan — ending one of the longest civil wars on record — and today remains the world’s youngest nation. In December 2013, armed conflict broke out between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to Vice President Riek Machar, who had been ousted during a power struggle. Ongoing violence continues to displace millions of families across the country.

The food security situation in South Sudan continues to deteriorate because of the combined effects of nearly three years of fighting, a collapsing economy, high food prices and erratic rainfall. Too many people are unable to meet their food needs, particularly through the lean season. The cost of food and other basic items is rising, even as food production has declined and incomes have shrunk for most urban dwellers.

In February 2017, the World Food Programme (WFP), along with the Food and Agriculture Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund, declared famine across parts of South Sudan, with more than 40 percent of the population in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance. The total number of food-insecure people rose to 6 million in July 2017 during the peak of the country’s lean season — the time between harvests when food often runs out.

World Food Programme's Work

WFP has been present in South Sudan since independence in 2013 and in Sudan since 1963.

In 2016, WFP reached a record 4 million people in South Sudan with food assistance—including $13.8 million in cash assistance and more than 584 million pounds of food and nutrition supplies.

Despite famine conditions easing in South Sudan because of a massive and intensive emergency response by WFP and its partners, some 6 million people — half of the country’s population — don’t know where their next meal will come from. This is a 22 percent increase from 4.9 million in February 2017. 1.7 million people are on the brink of famine and require immediate and regular assistance to prevent a catastrophe.

The conflict has spread, the economy is in tatters and WFP has expanded into areas where it would otherwise not be serving as many people. The needs remain high and there is increased insecurity.

Yet WFP has recently surpassed the numbers of people assisted in previous months — reaching 4.2 million people since the beginning of the year, as of late August 2017. This support includes:

  • Providing emergency food, nutrition and cash-based assistance for the most vulnerable, including a pilot cash program in urban areas with partner World Vision.
  • Implementing recovery and resilience-building operations in the form of food distributions, blanket and targeted supplementary feeding for mothers and children, school meals and take-home rations, agricultural support and food-for-assets and food-for-education projects, in which food assistance is provided in exchange for work or training.

The agency’s logistics teams have continued to move relief supplies and humanitarian aid workers around the country by air, river and land, despite challenges linked to security concerns, looting and access restrictions. So far this year, as of late August 2017, it has dispatched over 487 million pounds of food.

WFP and its partners have continued to deploy rapid response teams, using windows of opportunity to reach people in need. As of August 2017, there are six rapid response teams deployed to reach tens of thousands of people in the hardest-hit states.

In addition, the U.N. agency maintains a feeder roads operation dedicated to linking farmers and communities to markets and basic services, as well as to reducing transportation costs and improving delivery efficiency.

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