South Sudan is experiencing the world’s worst food security crisis, one not caused by drought or flood, but by man-made conflict. The United States and others in the international community are providing hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to help ease the suffering. But South Sudan’s leaders must do their part, laying down arms and negotiating a peace deal leading to a transitional government.
On July 25, the United Nations Security Council expressed grave concern about “catastrophic food insecurity” in the troubled East African nation. Some four million people – a third of the population – are at risk of starvation, and unless more international aid is forthcoming, experts say 50,000 children may die of hunger this year.
Thousands have already died in the conflict, and more than one and a half million South Sudanese have been forced to flee their homes. The crisis, now in its eighth month, erupted in mid-December, triggered by a power struggle between the government of President Salva Kiir and rebels led by former Vice President Riek Machaer. The conflict has since escalated and resulted in horrific acts of violence and human rights abuses, causing widespread displacement and a worsening humanitarian crisis.
The months of fighting have prevented farmers from planting or harvesting crops, causing food shortages across the country. The situation has worsened with the ongoing rainy season and farmers’ inability to plant for the next harvests.
The government of South Sudan and the opposition must put the safety and well-being of the South Sudanese people first and immediately implement the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement they recommitted to in May. The U.S. government urges both the parties to negotiate in good faith under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and to embrace efforts of the African Union, United Nations and others in the international community to support the peace process.
The security of humanitarian workers and goods must be ensured, and the checkpoints that impede aid deliveries must be dismantled. International and South Sudanese humanitarian workers must be able to do their jobs without fear of violence, extortion or other arbitrary impediments.
The United States remains committed to the people of South Sudan, providing more than $636 million in humanitarian aid this year alone. Still, the need is great, and we urge other donors to make additional contributions. The South Sudanese people deserve the opportunity to begin rebuilding their country and to develop the necessary national and local institutions to put South Sudan on a path toward stability.