Ongoing fighting between government and rebel forces has cut off food supply and prevented people from farming their land, triggering food shortages across all ten states of South Sudan. In Kuajok, Warrap State, locals told The Niles that basic goods have become unaffordable.
Monica Nyanut said that she can no longer grow food and cannot buy sorghum for her children because it is too expensive. One small tin of sorghum costs 25 South Sudanese pounds (US$ 8.40) in the market.
I don’t know where my children will get food from today.”My farm did not produce food last year because it was destroyed by the flood. I am going home now and I don’t know where my children will get food from today. I have only SSP 10 this is not enough to buy the small tin of sorghum in the market,” she said, adding that the state government should address the problem.
She urged officials to build strong relationship with neighbouring countries to encourage an influx of imports. Locals said that borders to neighbouring countries have been blocked, hampering the inflow of vital goods.
Adut Ring, who returned from Sudan to South Sudan after independence, said she was selling her goods to raise money to buy food for her family. She said she was no longer able to farm her the land she lives on, as the landowner stopped her.
I have come to the market to sell this yellow plastic water container so that I can buy durra for my children,” she said. Last night my children slept without food and I don’t know how they will spend this night. The price for one small tin of durra has gone very high and I don’t know how the returnee people like me will get this huge amount of money.”
Adut said she thought she would be better off returning to Khartoum to work as a house girl, a job which would provide enough money to feed her children.
Abdulla Manusur, a local trader at Kuajok market, said commodity prices have shot up in the local markets, partly because the soaring exchange rate makes dollar purchases in Uganda increasingly expensive for locals paying in South Sudanese pounds.
The state authority has increased taxes for food.”Increasing prices are not only about the high rate of dollar,” Abdulla said. The state authority has increased taxes for food sold in the market which also forces traders to increase the price to cover their expenses. In addition to that, there are so many check points and they also take money from us on the way.”
Manusur urged the South Sudanese government to repair roads so that vehicles’ do not take the current three weeks to reach Warrap State. The rainy season will make the roads impassable, if the government doesn’t repair them in advance, he said.
The newly appointed town mayor for Kuajok, Ben Ajiek Ajiek, said the city council is working hard to minimise the high tax on food commodities from the local traders in the market in order to make life affordable for normal citizens.
When the state governor and I went to Juba this month it was to talk about famine with the national government. Finally we succeeded in getting more than 800,000 sacks of durra. Some of them arrived last week and some of them are still on the way from Juba to Kuajok. Local citizens will be asked to pay only SSP 100 per one sack of durra,” he said.
Ajiek added that Sudan, during its recent election, closed key roads, boosting the price of imported foods in all markets across the three states of greater Bhar el-Ghazal.