As a peace deal has been reached in South Sudan's conflict, there are also alarming reports of a worsening hunger crisis. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said today that civilians in areas isolated by conflict are facing severe hunger.
WFP has fed over 700,000 people since the conflict began in December. However, famine is still a serious risk in some areas unless humanitarian aid can be delivered.
Mike Sackett, WFP’s Country Director, says, "A hunger catastrophe can still be avoided, but humanitarian agencies must be allowed to reach tens of thousands of people in need before it’s too late. It is absolutely critical to stop fighting and other obstacles that prevent life-saving aid deliveries.”
The ceasefire deal, between the government and opposition forces, could end the fighting. But that remains to be seen. Cecilia Millan of Oxfam says, "The proof of this deal will be seen on the ground. Civilians caught up in this bloody conflict need to have full confidence that they can return to their homes without fear of violence. They need to get back to their fields to plant their crops as soon as possible or they will lose the chance of feeding their families in the coming months. "
The peace deal clearly needs to be reinforced with food and other aid. WFP, which plans to expand food aid to reach over 3 million this year, depends on voluntary funds. Unless that funding comes through, South Sudan will be facing the relentless enemy of hunger.
Millan adds, "Even if peace holds the humanitarian consequences of this crisis will linger into next year and a mammoth aid effort needs to be mobilised to meet the enormous human need. Without governments urgently and generously donating the extra funds we will lose the opportunity this peace deal has offered."