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عربي

Juba residents struggle as food prices rocket

Esther Muwombi
Residents in the South Sudanese capital Juba are relieved that the fighting has calmed -- but are facing a new threat: Food shortages.
11.02.2014  |  Juba
A women in Juba’s Kator camp, January 9.
A women in Juba’s Kator camp, January 9.

Rising commodity prices, empty market stalls and widespread looting have left residents struggling to put food on the table.

More than a month after fighting spread across South Sudan, killing thousands, people from the UN camp in Juba are short of food and have started looting food from neighbouring villages.

Betty Kiden, a resident of one village, told The Niles how she watched people steal a goat from a young Mundari herder.

You can’t have goats out here while we go hungry inside the camp.
Displaced people in Juba
They came running after him, then started to beat him while yelling: you can’t have goats out here while we go hungry inside the camp. They grabbed it and ran back to the camp,” she said.

Many have similar stories, like how a Ugandan pineapple vendor was beaten unconscious and all his pineapples were stolen.

Food prices in Juba have rocketed beyond the reach of most citizens. A kilo of rice now costs between 6-8 South Sudanese Pounds (approx. two dollars), around a third more than prices before the conflict broke out.

The cost of flour, sugar and other basics like soap, lotions, toilet paper have also soared.

Water, which is transported from The Nile to Juba residents, is more expensive, partly because Eritreans water traders have fled in fear of their lives.
 
As conflict spread to the oil regions, halting production in some areas, fuel prices have jumped -- inflating the cost of all basics.

Mark Mulindwa, a tomato importer, blamed the fuel prices for the high food prices. Our transporters are charging us two times higher than before so we too have to shoot up the prices until the situation changes.”

Over half a million people fled their homes over the past month and a half, including 494,000 people displaced inside South Sudan and 86,100 who moved to neighbouring countries.

I am tired of talking to journalists and other representatives because I am not
being helped.”
Mary Kilele
Mary Kilele sits quietly amid a group of tents at Kator church camp. She is struggling to care for her baby who is malnourished and has deep burns after she fell in a boiling pot of beans while Mary was away looking for food. I am tired of talking to journalists and other representatives because I am not being helped. I wonder if the government is getting my messages,” Mary said.

Even the estimated 67,400 people sheltering in UN bases are short of food. In Juba, women and children make up around 80 percent of displaced people in the UN bases.

An OCHA report last week said aid agencies have so far assisted over 212,000 people and their reach is set to spread to Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria states.
 
Commonly grown food crops in South Sudan include maize, groundnuts, finger millet, pearl millet, sesame and cassava, but most of the country’s food is imported, especially from Uganda.

Before the conflict started, South Sudan was importing 88 percent of its food from Uganda -- but this figure shot up to 99 percent as farmers fled the fighting.

South Sudan has a good supply of fertile land but only four percent is farmed, an FOA report said.

I decided to halt my supplies until the situation calms.”
Monica Kobashingi
Armed conflict interfered with clearing the land and planting seeds. Farmers also faced high fuel prices, labour problems, stolen cattle and disputes over grasslands and water sources.

Traders, meanwhile, have shut up shop. Monica Kobashingi, a Ugandan trader, said she had stopped bringing flour amid fears of security problems. I heard rumours that some traders had been looted as they tried to transport rice to Juba,” she said. I decided to halt my supplies until the situation calms.”