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Starvation looms over Northern Bahr al-Ghazal

Hou Akot Hou
People in South Sudan’s Northern Bahr al-Ghazal State face food shortages. The recent escalation of the conflict along the disputed border of Sudan and South Sudan adds pressure on the government and aid agencies…
21.04.2012  |  Aweil
نساء ينتظرن بقلق المساعدة الغذائية في مقاطعة شرق أويل (2012\\04\\19).
نساء ينتظرن بقلق المساعدة الغذائية في مقاطعة شرق أويل (2012\\04\\19).

Fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) caused major population displacements and food prices keep rising. This has led to an acute food shortage in South Sudan’s Northern Bahr al-Ghazal State and worries many of the state’s citizens.

Most of us old women do not have anything to eat.”
Atong Makuac
In Aweil many cannot afford to buy enough food for themselves, limiting their daily meals and leaving them starving. We are so confused. Most of us old women do not have anything to eat.” If they report their problem to the local authorities, no one answers”, Atong Makuac, a mother from Aweil East County says.

Due to the tensions between the two neighboring countries, traders transporting goods from Sudan to South Sudan are not allowed to carry on. The result is a shortage of food supplies, which rapidly increases the prices of the goods still available. A 50 kilogram bag of sorghum costs now SSP 200.00 ($ 50.00), a price most people cannot afford.

Deng Madut, a trader from Aweil, says that he and many other colleagues are willing to help his community, if the government reduces the tax levied on goods imported from Kenya and Uganda. We are ready to serve, but taxes are too much,” he points out.

The recent fighting however only added to an already dire situation. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), poor harvests, increased demand, rapidly rising prices and a large number of returnees have all contributed to the food shortages, with a shortfall in cereal production weighing heavily on already distressed communities.

We are running out of time.”
Chris Nikoi
This is a rapidly approaching crisis that the world cannot afford to ignore,” says Chris Nikoi, WFP’s country director in South Sudan. The situation is dire, and we are doing everything we can to be ready, but we are running out of time.”

Many citizens in Aweil East County say they have been affected already since last year, mainly due to insufficient rains and ask the government and aid agencies to do more. If there is no possibility to rescue our situation here, they better tell us to evacuate the area and start moving us to where we can survive,” Makuac says.

Women wait for food aid in Aweil East County (19.04.2012/Hou Akot Hou).
WFP distributes food aid, such as sorghum, oil, lentils among others, but residents complain that the process of getting the rations is too complicated. We may die, if the food aid distribution is not done fairly,” Makuac urges.

Locals, particularly returnees, raise a series of complaints that they are not considered adequately in the food distribution. The UN and other aid agencies distributing food in Malualkon, Aweil East County, were not available to comment.

According to a FAO-WFP report published in February 2012, the number of food-insecure people in South Sudan jumped from 3.3 million in 2011 to 4.7 million in 2012. Of those, about one million are severely food insecure compared to 900,000 in 2011.