Famine in South Sudan: aid is urgent

Caritas International Belgium Famine in South Sudan: aid is urgent

Tommy Trenchard

Tommy Trenchard


The United Nations and the Government of South Sudan have declared a famine in the country as 250,000 children are severely undernourished and more than five million people urgently need food aid.

Civil War and Drought

“Caritas is very concerned,” explains Michel Roy, general secretary of the Caritas global network. “Famine is the direct result of the ongoing conflict and almost four years of unimaginable violence that has left the population destitute.”

The combination of a civil war, a constant recessionary economy, and drought have brought the population to its knees. Many families have not been able to harvest anything in August nor September. If it does not rain the new crop will again be compromised and without food aid, the peasants will be too weak to work their land.

Caritas provides food, water, hygiene kits and shelters for those who need it most

22,000 vulnerable people, many of them children, have found a roof and protection in the parishes of the dioceses of Yei, Torit, Wau and Juba. Local volunteers are mobilizing to provide food and water.

Caritas would like to do more, but the means are lacking.

For more than four years, Caritas International has supported vulnerable families in the dioceses of Maridi and Yei. When violence broke out in July 2016 in Yei, 90,000 people were trapped there. Caritas has suspended ongoing development activities to deploy vital emergency aid. Since December, Caritas has provided food and seed to Yei residents to diversify their food intake through sustainable vegetable gardening. Each month, 1,200 vulnerable households will receive a monthly food kit consisting of 36 kilos of flour, 6 kilos of beans and 1 liter of oil until May.

The first harvest of 2017 is expected in June. If it rains and the food security program shows up, the inhabitants of the region will be able to live again through their own production.

Refugees in Uganda

Between August and December, 500,000 people from the Yei region fled to Uganda. 300,000 of them found refuge in a vast uninhabited plain that is known today as the “Bidi Bidi refugee camp”.

Ward Tanghe, our supervisor for South Sudan, is on site: “In less than 5 months, one of Uganda’s least populated areas has transformed into an agglomeration of more than 300,000 inhabitants.”

In the meantime, a dozen temporary schools, a hospital and a large number of wells have been set up. However, distributing long-term food aid to 300,000 people is impossible; by mid-2017, refugees will have to be able to produce their own food.

Caritas International Belgium Famine in South Sudan: aid is urgent

Providing their own food

The camp is divided into 5 zones. The United Nations has given the mission of ensuring that the inhabitants of Zone 2 can provide their own food supply to Caritas and with support from the Swiss embassy in South Sudan, Caritas has distributed 8 tons of seed and 12,000 tools since October and 3,600 families of refugees were able to create a small irrigated vegetable garden.

“Bidi Bidi has a short rainy season in March-April and a longer one beginning in July and lasting until October. “The next few months will be crucial for food production in the camp,” explains Ward. “Caritas wants to extend its support to 8,400 refugee families but for this purpose the necessary funds are sorely lacking. In 2017 we want to buy 126 tons of seed and 4,800 kits of agricultural tools so that all refugees living in Zone 2 have enough to eat.”

Time is of the essence, any support is welcome. Thank you for your donation online or on BE88 0000 0000 4141 with the mention “Famine South Sudan”.

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