As previously reported, South Sudan has been afflicted with a new wave of civil war for two years now, since December 2013. The sustained work the Comboni Missionaries carry out in the country is sadly just a drop in the ocean for the deepening crisis.
In two years of conflict, tens of thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan, and two million more displaced. Schools, health centres and markets have been looted and destroyed. Last year, a humanitarian response on the scale of $1.8 billion was required to prevent a famine in the country. Now, the food crisis is on the precipice of worsening.
At least 40% of the country’s population – 4.6 million people – will be facing acute food insecurity within the next three months, according to new figures. While the most severe shortages are predicted for the country’s northeast where the fighting has centred, the hunger belt now covers much of the country’s northern half. At the same time, economists are warning that the combination of conflict and the global downturn in oil prices – the country’s main source of revenue – has brought South Sudan’s economy to the brink of collapse. Skyrocketing costs and an underperforming currency are especially threatening to urban communities where people are forced to buy most of their food. Some already cannot afford to eat.
“All of this means a crisis is arriving very, very quickly,” said Shaun Hughes, who heads the South Sudan World Food Programme – and on a scale unprecedented in the already suffering country.