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Famine threatens children in South Sudan

Conflict in South Sudan has fuelled the threat of famine. Children are the most vulnerable to malnutrition.
Conflict in South Sudan has fuelled the threat of famine. Children are the most vulnerable to malnutrition.

The escalating food crisis in South Sudan could lead to a full blown famine by early next year. At risk are thousands of malnourished children, who could die in the next few months if emergency treatment is not made available.

After an alleged coup, conflict has wreaked havoc in South Sudan since December 2013. A food crisis has been worsened by the political instability. If the situation continues, international aid agencies predict a famine could strike the country early next year.

Children will be among the worst affected, with an estimated 235,000 suffering from severe malnutrition by the end of 2014. In the same period, 675,000 children will be treated for moderate malnutrition. 50,000 children under five could die in the next few months, from malnutrition if emergency nutritional treatment is not made available.

Failure of political leadership

Currently the aid effort to avert such a disaster is only half-funded, with as much as $800 million still required. However, to avoid a famine requires political will from local and national authorities. Toby Lanzer, the UN co-ordinator for Humanitarian Affairs said:

“The single biggest cause, if there is a famine, is the failure of the political leadership to resolve this crisis. It is very important that people understand this is not something that a non-governmental organisation or a U.N. agency or the generosity of the people in an economically wealthy country can fix.”

Areas that have experienced the worst fighting are those most vulnerable to famine, including the Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states. In hard to reach places, families are surviving off water lilies and wild plants.

Children “brightened up” in their new SOS home 

Children's Village in Juba, South Sudan
The new SOS Village in Juba is a safe sanctuary for children and
SOS mothers who had to flee the fighting in Malakal.

Children in the SOS Village in South Sudan are safe, with enough provisions and food to ensure they continue to thrive. They recently moved from Malakal to Juba, to escape violence and fighting. Families have now settled into their newly constructed and temporary village in Juba. It has 15 houses, plus youth houses. A daily routine has been established and children are back in school.

Their new life in Juba is a welcome departure from the chaos experienced in Malakal. “I have never felt more committed and responsible for the lives of my children like I have for the past eight months,” says Nyibil, an SOS mother.

“Protecting the lives of these children has made me realise that I have made a major contribution to the future of this nation. Running with the children as shots rang during the fighting in Malakal was difficult. I felt like a shepherd sheltering sheep from a pack of lions. Since we came to the new village I have noticed something different with the children - they have brightened up with gladness – they like it here.”

Deserved rest for SOS mothers

During the past year, SOS mothers and staff have been working tirelessly to protect and shelter children in our care. Now that their living situation has stabilised, with children settled into their new home, we hope that SOS mothers can enjoy some time away from the Village and with their own families.

“SOS mothers are now talking about going on leave since the children are now safe and settled. We are making arrangements so that SOS aunts can step in and care for the children. The mothers have gone through a tough time so they need a break,” said Charles Wani, logistics coordinator in the Village.

Children in South Sudan have had a traumatic year. They can now start to enjoy their childhood again in Juba. Help them to flourish by sponsoring a child today.