For South Sudan to feed its 9.6 million inhabitants, it must overcome a range of formidable challenges. Similarly tough tasks exist for WFP and the humanitarian community as they set about reaching the almost 3 million South Sudanese who currently need emergency food assistance.
Here are five of the key challenges involved in feeding the hungry in the world’s newest nation.
1 - Poor food production
The October/November harvest was poor. Cereal production fell 30-40 per cent in 2011, compared to the previous year. Even the best-case scenario is bleak. Based on recent assessments conducted by FAO and WFP, the poor harvest is likely to cause a national grain deficit estimated at 400,000 metric tons in 2012.
A priority for WFP is to give children, pregnant women and nursing mothers the vital nutrition they need, deploying smart foods like Plumpy’Sup and Super Cereal to prevent malnutrition. In addition, we are helping communities become more self-sufficient and productive, using food assistance to support people as they work on projects, such as irrigation schemes, which will make them more food secure in the future (learn more about Food For Assets projects).
2 - High food prices
Sorghum and wheat flour prices in most areas are more than double what they were this time last year. High fuel prices makes things worse because the cost of transport is always factored in to the price of food reaching markets. Prices are one reason nearly half the population is ‘food insecure’
3 - Insecurity and violence
Tensions in border areas have escalated since South Sudan was declared an independent country in July 2011. There have also been outbreaks of violence in other parts of the country, such as the recent inter-tribal fighting in Jonglei, where tens of thousands have fled their homes This means it can be hard – and often dangerous - to reach the hungry. Learn more
4 - Poor infrastructure
There are very few good roads in South Sudan. The country is the same size as France but while France has 1,000,000 km of roads, South Sudan has 4,000 km. In March, when the rainy season starts, many parts of the country will become accessible only by air, which adds more to the cost of the humanitarian response. WFP is racing to pre-position food supplies now so that aid can continue in the spring.
5 - Funding
Taken together, the challenges described above combine to make responding to hunger in South Sudan an expensive business. WFP's 12-month emergency operation - launched in January 2012 - is currently facing a shortfall of US$177 million on its budget of US$262 million.
South Sudan - Key Numbers
• Number of people WFP aims to reach in 2012: 2.7 million
• Children/mothers receiving special nutritious food: 500,000
• Refugees and IDPs needing food: >540,000
• Returnees to South Sudan since 2010: 360,000
• National Grain Deficit (estimate 2012): 400,000 metric tons
• Cost of WFP Emergency Operation in 2012: US$262 million
• Current WFP shortfall for Emergency Operation: US$177 million