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Oxfam Warns of South Sudan Hunger Crisis

In this photo taken Tuesday, May 6, 2014 and made available Tuesday, May 13, 2014, John Kawai Lam, 8, right, plays with a non-functioning automatic rifle that he found buried in the soil when he and his mother Tabitha Nyanyun Ruach, 38, center, were culti
Oxfam International says a massive and rapid surge in aid is needed for South Sudan. Otherwise, it says, millions of people are at risk of – what it calls – catastrophic levels of hunger and suffering.
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Oxfam’s Colm Byrne says the international community must act immediately to help the people of South Sudan.

“The situation as we see it at the moment is that there are seven million people in South Sudan of a population of just around 11million who don’t have enough to eat right now. Following the trauma and the hardship that people have endured over the last four to five months of heavy conflict our concern is that many of these communities will not have the time and the opportunity to plant crops in order to have food at the traditional harvest time in September / October.”

Byrne – who’s based in Juba -- is the aid organization’s Humanitarian Advocacy Manager. He said, “There has been a cessation of hostilities, and there is definitely a window of opportunity before the heavy rains start, which still enables us access to many of the communities across the country. If we have the funding and we have the time and the space of this window of opportunity to provide people with the seeds and tools that they require, we can help ensure that people do have enough food to eat over the course of the year.”

Oxfam is calling on donors to meet the U.N. funding appeal for South Sudan of nearly $1.3-billion. Currently, the appeal has a shortfall of $700-million. Donors are due to meet Tuesday at a conference in Oslo.

Byrne said, “We also need to see a surge in the capacity of the response, which is very much dependent on funding. But we need to see a scaling-up of the activities of the international community to respond to this crisis. It’s now or never. It’s a one-off chance that we have. Once the rains start our access to communities affected by this crisis is very much limited.”

The humanitarian crisis is not confined to South Sudan.

“More than 300,000 refugees have fled to Kenya, to Ethiopia, to Uganda and indeed to Sudan itself, as well. So Oxfam has also supported 63,000 people in northern Uganda, too,” he said.

Oxfam is working in seven locations across the country.

“So far,” said Byrne, “we’ve helped over 180,000 people in terms of food vouchers – in terms of fuel efficient stoves – and in terms of water and sanitation, which is really important at a time of rains when you have large populations closely living together at the risk of public health emergencies.”

Byrne said that Oxfam wants to expand its operations in South Sudan, but needs donor support to do so.