South Sudan: Humanitarian agencies forced to scale back aid efforts

South Sudan: Humanitarian agencies forced to scale back aid efforts South Sudan: Humanitarian agencies forced to scale back aid efforts
On May 1, 2023, civilians who escaped the conflict-ridden Sudan sought refuge at the UNHCR transit center located in Renk, near the border crossing point in Renk County, Upper Nile State. (Reuters photo)

In the face of dwindling resources and growing needs, humanitarian agencies in South Sudan are being forced to make difficult decisions and scale back their aid efforts.

This has raised concerns for the welfare of millions of vulnerable people who are at risk of being left without critical support during this time of crisis.

South Sudan: Humanitarian agencies forced to scale back aid efforts
On May 1, 2023, civilians who escaped the conflict-ridden Sudan sought refuge at the UNHCR transit center located in Renk, near the border crossing point in Renk County, Upper Nile State. (Reuters photo)

All life-saving sectors, including health, nutrition, and food security, have been affected, with millions of people now lacking vital assistance. The United Nations has sounded the alarm, warning that this situation could have devastating consequences.

One of the most pressing issues is food security. In South Sudan, a staggering 7.76 million people are experiencing critical, emergency, and catastrophic levels of need. However, due to resourcing shortfalls, emergency food assistance can only be prioritised for 3.2 million people who face the highest levels of food insecurity, according to humanitarian agencies.

This prioritisation of resources is part of a famine prevention approach, where communities closest to starvation are given priority in receiving assistance. This strategy aims to save as many lives as possible in the face of limited resources.

However, even for these communities, resourcing constraints mean that they only receive reduced rations for seven or eight months of the year. This limited support is usually provided during the most challenging months when access to food resources is at its lowest, typically between January and July each year.

The World Food Programme, as one of the leading humanitarian agencies in South Sudan, acknowledges the difficulty of these decisions. Makena Walker, Acting Country Director for WFP in South Sudan, emphasised that their priority is to save as many lives as possible. However, the reality is that with limited resources, tough choices have to be made, which inevitably means that some communities will be left without the full extent of support they desperately need.

The consequences of scaling back aid efforts are severe. Without adequate assistance, vulnerable communities are at risk of malnutrition, illness, and even starvation. This also puts a strain on the already fragile healthcare system in South Sudan, which is struggling to cope with increasing demands. The impact on children is especially concerning, as malnutrition can have long-term effects on their growth and development.

To address this urgent situation, it is crucial that more resources are mobilised to meet the growing needs in South Sudan. International donors, governments, and humanitarian organisations must come together to ensure that the necessary funding is provided to sustain and expand aid efforts.

“We have collaborated closely with the Government of South Sudan to ensure that we prioritise assistance for the most vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, the reality is that there are limited resources available to address the urgent needs in South Sudan.

This country faces an alarming level of food insecurity and malnutrition, affecting two-thirds of its population. It is one of the worst food security emergencies worldwide. Many individuals experiencing severe food insecurity find themselves in areas with ongoing vulnerabilities exacerbated by climatic shocks, economic crisis, conflicts, and low agricultural productivity.

The situation for vulnerable people in South Sudan has been dire for years, with new crises emerging while humanitarian organisations struggle to fulfil their basic needs,” stated Peter Van der Auweraert, Acting Humanitarian Coordinator.

The influx of refugees, returnees, and third-country nationals resulting from the crisis in Sudan has further complicated an already fragile humanitarian situation in South Sudan. Consequently, all humanitarian interventions encompassing women’s and girls’ protection, food assistance, nutrition support, shelter provisions, water supply and sanitation services as well as education initiatives are affected by this funding gap.

To add to these challenges, the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan seeks $1.7 billion to provide life-saving aid and protection services to 6.8 million individuals; however only 46% of this amount has been secured as of 5 September.

Urgent funding totaling over $300 million is required immediately to support those fleeing from Sudan into South Sudan.”

In addition to increased funding, there is also a need for international support to address the root causes of the crisis in South Sudan. The ongoing conflict, political instability, and economic challenges have contributed to the worsening humanitarian situation in the country. Addressing these issues and working towards sustainable peace and development is crucial for long-term stability and the well-being of the South Sudanese people.

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