OLD FANGAK, South Sudan: Nyayiar Kuol cradled his severely malnourished one-year-old daughter as they traveled 16 hours on a crowded barge to the hospital closest to their home in the South Sudan countryside . For months, she had fed her four children just once a day, unable to farm due to catastrophic flooding and without sufficient food assistance from government or aid groups. She fears that her daughter will die.
âI don’t want to think about what might happen,â she said.
Sitting on her hospital bed in the town of Old Fangak, in the hard-hit state of Jonglei, Kuol, 36, tried to calm her daughter down while blaming the government for not doing more. Almost two years have passed since South Sudan formed a coalition government in a fragile peace deal to end a five-year civil war that has plunged pockets of the country into starvation, and yet Kuol said nothing had changed.
“If this country were truly at peace, there would be no hunger like there is now,” she said.
More people will face hunger this year in South Sudan than ever before, aid groups have said. This is because of the worst floods in 60 years, as well as conflicts and the slow implementation of the peace agreement which deprived many of the country’s basic services.
â2021 has been the worst year since independence in the 10 years of this country’s life and 2022 will be worse. Food insecurity is reaching horrific levels, âsaid Matthew Hollingworth, World Food Program representative in South Sudan.
While the latest food security report from aid groups and government has yet to be released, several aid officials familiar with the situation said preliminary data shows nearly 8.5 million people – of the country’s 12 million – will face severe famine, an 8% increase over last year. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Aid officials say the worst-hit Fangak County is now as bad as Pibor County was around the same time last year, when global food security experts said some 30,000 inhabitants of Pibor were probably in a famine situation.
During trips to three states in South Sudan in December, some civilians and government officials told The Associated Press of their concern that people were starting to starve.
In October, a mother and child died in the village of Pulpham because they had no food, said Jeremiah Gatmai, the government’s humanitarian representative in Old Fangak.
Almost a million people across South Sudan have been affected by the floods, according to the United Nations, which had to cut food aid in half in most places due to financial constraints, affecting some 3 million of people.
Two years of flooding prevented people from farming and killed more than 250,000 head of cattle in Jonglei state alone, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Some displaced families in Old Fangak said ground water lilies were their only daily meal. âWe eat once a day in the morning and then sleep without food,â said Nyaluak Chuol. The 20-year-old woman, like others, lost her fishing net in the floods. When she has enough money, she pays a boy to fish for her.
Many Jonglei residents fled to neighboring states for food and shelter, but found little respite. In the town of Malakal, some 3,000 displaced people have crowded into abandoned buildings or sheltered under trees with nothing to eat.
âWe eat leaves and look like skeletons,â Tut Jaknyang told the AP. The 60-year-old has only received food aid once since fleeing floods in Jonglei in July, he said. He and others said a donated bag of rice should be shared among 20 people.
North of Malakal in the town of Wau Shilluk, health workers said the number of malnourished children entering the medical center rose from 10 between January and July to 26 between August and December, according to Christina Dak, a health worker from the International Medical Corps. .
While the floods are the main driver of hunger, they are compounded by the government’s standoff as the country’s two main political parties attempt to share power.
Opposition-aligned local Malakal officials accused members of longtime President Salva Kiir’s party of undermining them by blocking political appointments and not letting them fire corrupt staff, making governance and governance difficult. service delivery.
âWe don’t work as a single team. Nobody cares for people, âsaid Byinj Erngst, Upper Nile State Minister of Health.
Added to political tensions are the ongoing fighting between the government and militias aligned with the opposition in the country’s granary in the southwest.
Government spokesman Michael Makuei said some relief such as medical services are continuing, but national authorities can only provide limited help. âThe floods destroyed the crops, what can the government do about it? ” he said.
The frustration of observers is growing. In a speech to the UN Security Council in December, the head of the UN mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, warned of a collapse of the country’s peace agreement if all the parties did not renew their political will.
Jill Seaman, who works in Old Fangak with South Sudan Medical Relief and has over 30 years of local experience, concluded: âThere are no resources, no crops and no cows, there are no place to look for food.