News / Africa

UN Fears for South Sudanese as Austerity Bites

Aid workers outside a food store in troubled Jonglei state, where inter communal violence affected around 170,000 people at the start of the year, South Sudan, January 2012. (VOA Photo - H. McNeish)
Aid workers outside a food store in troubled Jonglei state, where inter communal violence affected around 170,000 people at the start of the year, South Sudan, January 2012. (VOA Photo - H. McNeish)
Hannah McNeish
JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN - The United Nations has voiced concern about South Sudan’s ailing economy and says its people could suffer from spiraling inflation in the coming months, while around half the population already faces food shortages.  

South Sudan has taken in little revenue since January, when the government shut down oil production amid a dispute with Sudan over transit fees.
South Sudan’s U.N. humanitarian coordinator, Lise Grande, said Tuesday the organization fears the economic downturn that followed the shutdown could have a huge impact on the population in the coming months.

“I think what we’re very worried about is that austerity, as it bites deeper and deeper into households - it’s going to have to be humanitarian agencies that are going to have to step up their operations, step up their support, and help those families make it through,” said Grande.

South Sudan took over three-quarters of Sudan's oil reserves when it became independent last July, but relies on its former civil war foe to export its crude through northern pipelines and a port.

The south has refused to pay what it considers excessive fees to use those facilities, and in January took the drastic step of shutting down all oil production.  The move was especially crippling since South Sudan depends on oil for 98 percent of its revenue.
The lack of revenue has hit the import-dependent economy hard, and leaked documents from a World Bank briefing in March warned that the economy could collapse as early as July if the shutdown continues and harder austerity measures are not imposed.

Grande said it would be left up to aid agencies to support the population.

“Unless the oil production is started again, the number of people who are going to require emergency assistance is going to be rising in the next coming weeks and months,” said Grande.

But the U.N. said it has received only 32 percent of a $760 million appeal made before the oil shutdown.  It says the recent border clashes between Sudan and South Sudan will likely increase funding needs.

Food is the major problem in South Sudan.  U.N. agencies have predicted that 4.7 million people would face shortages in 2012 due to erratic rains, internal violence and closure of trade routes along the as-yet-undefined border with Sudan.

Now, the lack of dollars in impoverished South Sudan has sparked inflation in food prices, and Grande fears that the number of people forced down to just one meal a day could quickly rise from an already startling 2.7 million.

“We can already tell that with the depreciating currency, that the price of basic food commodities is increasing," added Grande. "In some places we are seeing increases of as high as 300 percent and in the border communities on average the increase for basic supplies has been 100-200 percent.”

The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) is racing the clock to try to pre-position enough food for rising numbers of people in need, who include people displaced by the violence, refugees, returnees from Sudan and farmers whose crops have failed.

But the WFP also faces a shortfall of $100 million and unless the oil is turned on or a bailout for South Sudan appears soon, the population looks set to get hungrier.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs