South Sudan is facing a humanitarian emergency, with nearly five million people suffering from hunger. South Sudan’s conflict with neighboring Sudan is escalating the hunger crisis. Civilians fleeing the fighting are walking for days without food until they can reach aid stations.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says, “In the past weeks, the refugee population in South Sudan’s northern Border States has rapidly increased to more than 160,000 individuals. More than 32,000 Sudanese refugees arrived in Upper Nile state alone, increasing the refugee population in Maban County to over 105,000 individuals.”
WFP, the world’s largest hunger fighting agency, is racing to provide aid. One its key partners is the US Food for Peace program, the largest single source of funding for WFP. Congress, though, is planning to reduce funding for Food for Peace and other global hunger fighting programs.
The House Appropriations Committee just approved a bill that would cut the Food for Peace program by 22 percent, down to the level of $1.15 billion for the coming fiscal year. Who will this hurt? South Sudan as well as other nations that need food assistance.
Kathleen Kahlau of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) said last week that proposed cuts to Food for Peace are a severe threat. In a CRS webcast on South Sudan Kahlua said that “we are very concerned about the cuts to international food aid as proposed by the Congress. Please help us keep these drastic cuts from happening.”
CRS has written a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating, “Please ensure that the Administration is engaged in every way possible with the governments of Sudan and South Sudan and with important partner countries and regional bodies to prevent a return to war, to end attacks on civilians, and to protect the basic rights of the Sudanese people, including the freedom of movement and access to humanitarian aid.”
Diplomatic efforts at demilitarizing the border and resolving the dispute over oil revenues need to be reinforced with food for the hungry.
South Sudan’s troubles go far beyond its border areas. The country is facing low food production resulting from drought. Internal conflict between rival tribes has caused large-scale displacement and hunger.
WFP warns the crisis may get much worse, “with thousands more refugees expected to arrive in the coming weeks before the rains make the trek across the border impossible.” The agency is currently short $86 million in funding to fight hunger in South Sudan.
Article first published as Budget Cuts by Congress Would Impact Hungry South Sudan on Blogcritics.