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December 28, 2011

WFP to Ramp Up Food Aid in South Sudan Next Year

by Lisa Schlein

The World Food Program reports it is scaling up its humanitarian operation in South Sudan next year to support 2.7 million people affected by hunger and conflict. WFP says crop failure brought about by little and erratic rainfall this year is worsening food insecurity in this newly independent country. 

War is raging along the border between South Sudan and Sudan, its northern neighbor.   This is adding to the misery already felt by the nearly eight million people living in this newly independent state.  

The World Food Program says food prices are rising because of the bad harvest. It says trade between Sudan in the north and South Sudan is disrupted because of border closures. On top of that, it says the large numbers of returnees and displaced people is putting great pressure upon the country's limited food stocks.  

WFP spokeswoman, Gaelle Sevenier, tells VOA lack of food is causing malnutrition to rise among children. So, as part of its scaled-up operation, she says WFP will provide highly fortified supplementary foods to more than one-half million children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

"The World Food Program is deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in South Sudan," said Sevenier. "We have very high food and fuel prices. We have rising poverty, a growing insecurity, and all this is pushing one-third of the population into hunger.  So, a third of the population in South Sudan is hungry."  

Recent assessments by the World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization find 3.7 million people in South Sudan are moderately to severely food insecure. This is about 12 percent higher than in 2010. The same assessments estimate the national grain deficit in 2012 will be about 400,000 metric tons.  

Sevenier says WFP has begun pre-positioning food in South Sudan, in advance of the rainy season, which begins in March.

"When the rainy season starts, 60 percent of the country is completely cut off.  Sixty percent of the country is unreachable," added Sevenier. "We cannot bring the food to 60 percent of the country except by plane. If we have to bring the food by plane, it is very costly. So, we are planning ahead. We have four months in front of us, four months to bring as much food as possible to the different places."  

The World Food Program says it urgently needs around $92 million to address hunger needs in South Sudan in the first four months of next year. In addition to emergency assistance, WFP is supporting other programs aimed at helping communities and families become more self-sufficient and productive.  

The agency says it also is laying the groundwork for other projects to build longer-term resilience.