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South Sudan's tragedy: loaded guns and empty stomachs

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Charities, including Oxfam and CARE, have just released an urgent report on South Sudan titled "Loaded Guns and Empty Stomachs." They are calling for action to help the conflict-torn nation as it suffers from severe shortages of food and other basic supplies.

Oxfam's director Winnie Byanyima pleads, “How many lives have to be lost before the parties to the conflict silence their guns and donors responds with more resources? We either act now or face an even larger human catastrophe in the weeks and months to come."

South Sudan has long struggled with the effects of hunger and malnutrition. While some progress was being made on this front, a major conflict between the government and opposition forces broke out in December. This has displaced close to a million people and disrupted basic services.

Oxfam says, "Markets and health facilities have been destroyed. Getting aid to people has been very difficult and in some areas impossible. Cropping patterns have been disrupted. Not enough seed has been planted. Seasonal rains are making things worse."

There are now seven million at risk of hunger in South Sudan. The UN World Food Programme (WFP), the lead agency in fighting hunger, is short on resources to meet the emergency. UNICEF is warning of children starving to death unless more funding arrives from the international community.

Aimee Ansari, CARE country director for South Sudan, says, "CARE just finished a rapid response mission in Pagak in Upper Nile state where we saw women and children bearing the weight of this conflict and the beginning of what may be a serious food crisis. The international community has to invest more in health, nutrition, water and sanitation now. Once the rainy season begins, many of the most vulnerable people will be unreachable.”

Byanyima adds, “The international community seems to have been stunned by how fast things have deteriorated. It is struggling to find a coherent way to respond. We need to learn from the mistakes of the past, not repeat them. Mass death needs not be inevitable for South Sudan but we can’t trust to hope and good luck. We need action.”

You can see the full report here.