The world’s youngest country has struggled to overcome a multitude of challenges. Conflict, climate shocks and a widespread economic crisis, exacerbated by COVID-19 and the global food crisis, continue to put sufficient, nutritious food out of reach for millions of families.
The impact of widespread conflict has been compounded by four consecutive years of unprecedented flooding and localized drought, destroying lives and livelihoods and causing widespread displacement. There are currently 2.2 million people displaced in the country and 2.3 million South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries.
The multiplying shocks have made it impossible for smallholder farmers in many areas to grow enough food to support themselves or their communities. Additionally, with a heavy reliance on imports, many people across South Sudan are unable to afford basic food items and must rely on humanitarian assistance.
The country is facing its hungriest year since independence was gained in 2011, with almost 8 million people unable to find enough to eat. This exceeds levels seen even during the civil war. Meanwhile, 2 million children and pregnant or breastfeeding women are malnourished.
Women and girls suffer disproportionately from hunger and food insecurity. Cultural norms and decades of violence – including rape as a weapon of war – underpin deep gender inequalities. Cycles of poverty, gender inequality and food insecurity are likely to continue. A total of 2.8 million children are out of school, more than half of whom are girls. There is a 29 percent literacy rate for women compared to 40 percent for men – one of the lowest female rates in the world.
Food assistance is essential to avoiding a humanitarian catastrophe. The World Food Programme (WFP) provides life-saving support to millions of people on all sides of the conflict and in virtually all areas, including in hard-to-reach locations. With a view to turning food assistance into a tool for peace building and future development, WFP is working with grassroots civil society organizations and empowering communities – with a special focus on women and girls – to foster increased resilience, self-reliance and recovery.
What the World Food Programme is doing in South Sudan
WFP works to ensure that vulnerable people affected by conflict, displacement, climate shocks (flooding and drought) and economic crises can meet their food and nutrition needs. This includes conditional or unconditional food distributions and, where possible, cash transfers.
WFP provides specialized nutritious food and nutrition counselling to pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children. The nutrition programme is twofold – treating malnutrition among pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under 5, and preventing malnutrition for pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under 2. WFP works with UNICEF and other partners to ensure nutrition programmes reach even the most inaccessible parts of the country.
WFP works with smallholder farmers and farmers’ organizations to improve resilience to shocks, through training and the creation of assets, such as roads, dykes and shallow wells, which can boost agricultural productivity and post-harvest management, improve access to basic services and markets, and help communities adapt to climate change. WFP has introduced livelihood initiatives and supported shared community assets, such as communal farming land, in conflict-affected areas where humanitarian assistance is needed. This works helps reduce conflict and contributes to peace among communities. Where possible, WFP also procures food locally to boost livelihood opportunities and the local economy.
The school feeding programme was introduced in 2003. Students receive either on-site hot meals or dry take-home rations. School feeding aims to increase access to education, reduce gaps in calorie and nutritional intakes, and to protect children from risks through quitting school, particularly girls who are at risk of marriage and early pregnancies. By providing meals as incentives, the programme aims to contribute to improved education performance (enrolment, attendance and retention) and labour productivity in the future.
WFP provides air transport and logistics services to humanitarian partners, to ensure the delivery of assistance to hard-to-reach areas. This includes flights to 59 destinations through the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service. The WFP-led Logistics Cluster provides coordination and information management, delivery of humanitarian relief items, common warehousing and geographic information system mapping. WFP also supports infrastructure works across the country. This includes building and restoring roads to facilitate the transportation of goods, and creating dykes to prevent floodwaters from devastating communities.
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