A boy waits with his parents at the site of a food distribution in Jonglei State, Southern Sudan. Photo: WFP/Mohamed Siddig
As southern Sudan holds a referendum on independence, WFP is working to ensure that the landmark event doesn’t produce yet more hunger in a region where food security has been undermined by decades of conflict and natural disasters. Here are four ways we aim to keep hunger at bay.
Text by Martin Penner/video by Susannah Nicol
ROME – On 9 January, the people of southern Sudan started voting in a referendum to decide whether to remain united with the north or to secede and create a new African nation. It’s a crucial political crossroads for a region plagued by decades of conflict and hunger.
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South Sudan is less dependent on food assistance than it was in 2010, according to a new study by WFP and FAO. The study cautioned that the long-term outlook will depend on events in the post-referendum period.
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The vote, and the possibility of an independent nation, has sparked the return since October 30 of more than 100,000 southerners who had been living for years in the north or even abroad. With a growing population and much uncertainty, there is the risk that the hunger situation in southern Sudan could get worse.
In recent months WFP has built and implemented a strategy to counter that risk. Here are four ways we are working to keep hunger at bay now and in the coming months:
1. Supporting existing population
Through our existing programmes, WFP is channelling food to the most vulnerable families in the region. Currently that is about 750,000 people. During the 2010 ‘lean season’ when food is scarce the number of people who received WFP food assistance climbed as high as 3 million.
2. Assisting returnees
WFP has already provided food rations to more than 104,000 people who have returned to southern Sudan and we are ready to assist up to half a million if need be. We will provide returnees with three months of food assistance as part of a reintegration package.
3. Building capacity for 2011
Ahead of the January referendum, WFP has pre-positioned food in more than 100 strategic locations. There’s enough to feed 1 million people for six months. This is in preparation for a potential influx of returnees and the possibility that people will be displaced.
4. Preparing next door
Food supplies are being pre-positioned in neighbouring countries such as Chad, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. This will be used to provide assistance to refugees if instability leads to a movement of people across Sudan’s southern borders.