2021 is shaping up to be a perilous year for the people of South Sudan. According to the United Nations, the country faces its highest levels of food insecurity and malnutrition since it gained its independence from Sudan 10 years ago. Indeed, the upcoming May-to-July hunger season is expected to be the most severe on record.Approximately 7.7 million people--nearly two-thirds of the population--will require food assistance, including an estimated 1.4 million children experiencing acute malnutrition.
Natural disasters are a part of the problem. The impacts of recent severe flooding have now been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. But much of the problem is man-made, a direct result of instability caused by years of civil war, inter-communal conflict, political in-fighting, and corruption. The crisis has been exacerbated by severe flooding last year, attacks of desert locusts, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In mid-April, the United States announced that it will deliver more than $95 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of South Sudan who are facing extreme food insecurity that is likely to spiral into famine in some parts of South Sudan. This brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance to more than $482 million so far in Fiscal Year 2021.
With these funds, the U.S. government will provide essential healthcare, protection, shelter, access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services and of course, food and nutrition, to some of the millions of people impacted. As much of the food as possible will be purchased by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, from local, South Sudanese farmers who were able to harvest their crops this season. In this way, USAID hopes to encourage greater food production this year.This U.S. assistance will be extended to include people who are internally displaced, as well as South Sudanese refugees in host communities in Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the people of South Sudan. Humanitarian assistance will not solve South Sudan’s man-made disaster, but it is vital to keeping civilians alive and alleviating suffering. Ultimately, a political solution is the only way to end the suffering of the South Sudanese people.