The world’s youngest country turns one and looks to a hunger-free future

Join us in wishing happy birthday to South Sudan, the world’s youngest country. Just over a year ago, over 99% of the people who live in what is now South Sudan voted to become an independent country. The young nation’s first year has been filled with tremendous progress, such as developing a constitution and establishing the foundations for a new government.

Many families, however, still struggle to get enough food. Nearly half of the people living in South Sudan today experience hunger, severely limiting their ability to work, learn, and develop their country. Here at WFP Students we’re taking the occasion to reflect on how solving hunger will help the young nation continue to build a stronger, more resilient – and peaceful future. We’ve pulled together seven answers to questions about why there is a hunger crisis in South Sudan and the road ahead to the nation’s hunger-free future.

Where is South Sudan?
South Sudan used to be a part of Sudan, a large country in Central Africa. After more than two decades of civil conflict, South Sudan voted to become independent. It is located in an extremely fertile area and the land has the capability to produce enough food to feed the entire region. After the South Sudanese people voted to become independent, borders were drawn that cut Sudan in half. South Sudan is roughly the size of France or a little bit smaller than the state of Texas.

map of poor food consumption in south sudan

Why is there a hunger crisis in South Sudan?
Poor harvests, soaring food and fuel prices, and conflict and displacement are some of the main reasons South Sudan is in the midst of a hunger crisis, despite being located in a fertile region that could provide food for the entire population and beyond. Because of these challenges and many more, there continues to be an increase in the number of people who experience hunger and malnutrition in South Sudan today, even higher than before independence.

How large is the hunger crisis in South Sudan?
Here are some figures that paint a picture of just how many people experience hunger in South Sudan.
• 4.7 million people, or almost half of the population, experiences hunger.
• 2.9 million of the most vulnerable people receive assistance from WFP.
• The average amount of money someone in South Sudan makes in a year is $1,546, making it difficult to buy enough food for large families.
• 28% of girls and 47% of boys are enrolled in school. Only 27% of all people can read and write. This is part of why WFP’s school meals programme plays such an important role keeping kids in school.
Source: The Guardian Global Development Data Blog

Who is most at risk of experiencing hunger in South Sudan?
• Refugees and displaced persons who often lack access to land to grow food.
• Returnees from displacement camps

• Children under 5, pregnant women, and nursing mothers who need to get the right nutrition at the right time for healthy development
• Families that struggle to meet their basic food needs, especially in rural areas.

What are the main challenges South Sudan faces to building a food secure future?
When many of the countries of the world were starting out as young nations, they faced challenges and hardship. Similarly, here are some of the central challenges South Sudan is working to overcome as it moves forward.
• While South Sudan is fertile enough to grow enough food for the entire region, 4.7 million people, almost half of the population, are hungry in South Sudan itself. Without enough nutritious food, people cannot learn or work to their full capacity.
• South Sudan lacks a large road and transportation network to help farmers bring their surplus crops to sell in regional markets and earn extra income.
• Many people in South Sudan have unfortunately experienced hunger for a long time, meaning that many pregnant women and young mothers are malnourished themselves, giving birth to smaller babies that have a harder time developing.

How does solving hunger ensure a peaceful future in South Sudan?
Zero hunger would boost economic growth, reduce poverty and safeguard the environment. It would foster peace and stability.”

This is what the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said last month when he discussed how solving hunger helps build a more secure world.  His words ring particularly true for South Sudan where solving hunger could be a driver of peace for the region.
In 2012, WFP is committed to providing 2.9 million people with the food assistance they need to survive and rebuild their lives, while also working with the Government of South Sudan and communities to strengthen South Sudan’s ability to feed its own people.  WFP is currently assisting the most vulnerable people in the young nation, with a focus on children under five, nursing and pregnant mothers, and refugees.

How can WFP work with communities to build long-term solutions to hunger?

WFP is also working to empower communities to make them more resilient in the future and less dependent on emergency food assistance. They are doing this by connecting smallholder farmers to markets through the Purchase for Progress programme, deploying anti-hunger safety net programmes likeschool meals, and building 500 km of feeder roads to link farming areas with commercial centres.

These programs help South Sudan prosper as a country by strengthening the ability of farmers to feed their families and make a living with their surplus crops; by keeping children in school, especially girls who are proven to drive development when better educated, and by building roads to link remote agricultural communities to larger markets. By working with communities and the Government of South Sudan, WFP is helping build a better, more peaceful future together.