Juba – At least 1.3 million children aged below five will face acute malnutrition in South Sudan in 2019, according to a joint report by the government of South Sudan and three UN agencies released on Wednesday.
Acute malnutrition level among children in South Sudan has increased from 13 per cent in 2018 to 16 per cent this year, above the emergency threshold of 16 per cent, officials said.
The report was according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) conducted by the government of South Sudan, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
The high rates of acute malnutrition are attributed to high levels of food insecurity, poor infant and young child feeding habits as well as high morbidity due to weak health systems in the conflict in country.
“The increase in acute malnutrition among children in South Sudan tells us how complex malnutrition is but also how much longer it takes to rebuild a country, compared to shattering it,’’ said Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan.
“This situation calls for a paradigm shift, putting prevention first, before scaling up treatment,” Ayoya added.
The report indicates that the highest burden of acute malnutrition is in the conflict-ravaged Greater Upper Nile region and the former Warrap State.
It is estimated that 10,000 people in the central region of Lakes state are at risk of famine without urgent humanitarian assistance.
“We urge all stakeholders to scale up their efforts in the coming months, taking advantage of the improved security situation.
“Support the people as they work hard to resume their livelihoods,” said John Acuoth, Deputy Chairperson of the South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics.
In spite of slight improvement in the food security situation, the report also finds that more than half of the country’s estimated 13 million people still face severe food shortage.
FAO Representative in South Sudan Meshack Malo said the IPC findings are still alarming, but they also show that the revitalised peace agreement is bearing dividends and its full implementation is of utmost significance for the country.
“With political stability and sustained peace, South Sudan could easily recover from the crisis and boost its food production,” Malo added.
South Sudan descended into conflict in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir sacked his deputy Riek Machar leading to fighting between soldiers loyal to both leaders.
The conflict killed tens of thousands and displaced more than four million people both internally and externally.
A peace deal signed in 2015 collapsed after an outbreak of renewed violence in July 2016, forcing Machar to flee the capital.
Under the 2018 peace deal, Machar will take up one of the four vice presidency positions in the transitional government that’s expected to be formed by November.