Increasing risk of famine amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing more than 7 million people into hunger.
NEW YORK, United States of America, January 2, 2021 – The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is extremely concerned about the counties in South Sudan where an increasing risk of famine amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing more than 7 million people into hunger. Food insecurity is rising amidst massive displacement of civilians resulting from a perfect storm of crises; the effects of years of conflict, an economic crisis, recurrent flooding and COVID-19. According to the IRC’s 2021 Watchlist, the risk of famine will increase even more in 2021. With more than 60% of the South Sudanese population facing food insecurity, the IRC is calling for a scale-up in international financial support and improvements in access for food assistance for South Sudan to prevent famine.
Caroline Sekyewa, South Sudan Country Director at the IRC, said,
“People in South Sudan were already struggling to access food. This year, counties are experiencing the impact of years of conflict, and peace is still extremely fragile. Further, an economic crisis, flooding and COVID-19 is forcing more people to go hungry as they lose their livelihoods and ability to feed their families. COVID-19-induced economic downturns and drops in oil prices are constraining the new government’s ability to implement the peace deal, whose implementation is already heavily delayed. South Sudan is the tenth deadliest country for civilians in the world – though many incidents likely go unreported.”
“It is estimated that 11,000 people are experiencing famine and this is likely amongst households where recent conflict and two consecutive years of severe floods are exhausting coping capacity. Due to the combined impact of devastating floods, conflict, and worsening economic conditions, most households are not able to meet their basic food needs or are using extremely detrimental strategies to cope. Amongst the 7 million people going hungry, 1.7 million people are estimated to be battling emergency levels of hunger across 35 counties, with areas of greatest concern concentrated in Jonglei, Unity, Lakes, Warrap, and Upper Nile.”
“Going into 2021, the 2018 peace deal remains fragile and even if it holds, conflict will continue, with civilian populations and humanitarians caught in the middle. Civilians and aid workers continue to face harm. Experts recorded over 500 fatalities in “violence against civilians” incidents in the first nine months of 2020. COVID-19 threatens to exacerbate the country’s health crises, given its extremely low coping capacity. More than half of the population has no access to primary health services, which, alongside limited access to clean water, poor sanitation services and extremely low immunization rates, has left the population highly susceptible to diseases like COVID-19. IRC calls on more support and funding for people in South Sudan as food insecurity threatens lives. ”
The IRC is one of the largest aid providers in South Sudan, operating there for over 30 years and delivering emergency assistance and supporting vulnerable populations in hard-to-reach areas. Our health response includes capacity building in state clinics, training of local health workers, nutrition programs, and sanitation services. We also provide support to survivors of sexual violence and child protection services. Community leaders and government officials are trained on the importance of upholding human rights. The IRC helps empower people through cash assistance, job and livelihoods training. Learn more about the IRC’s South Sudan response.
The Afar region has faced an unprecedented locust invasion since August this year.
AFAR, Ethiopia, October 28, 2020 – Mohammed Ali, 30, a pastoralist, is visibly tired, but relentlessly searching for pasture for his cattle under scorching sunshine. He leads over 400 head of cattle from Ewa to Asayta Woreda in the Afar region. Although pastoralists like Mohammed are accustomed to making the annual 200 km trek in January when the rains stop, they were compelled to make the journey in October – three months early.
“Desert locusts destroyed all the natural pasture including green vegetation cover. Our livestock would starve to death if we did not move,” he said.
According to Ayalew Shumet, the Afar region’s coordinator of desert locust operations, about 10 million head of livestock in the region are currently affected by the scarcity of natural pasture. Because pastoralists rely on the weather and environment to secure livestock feed for their livestock, they are heavily impacted by the damage desert locusts have caused on pasture.
Desert locusts have also destroyed entire crop fields leaving farmers, and local authorities worried. Hussein Hundolpe vividly remembers the day locusts invaded his six-hectare maize field in Afambo Woreda with sadness.
“My family and I worked hard to clear the field. I bought an irrigation pump and fuel and ensured that my maize crop received enough water. When the plants were about one meter tall, locusts devoured everything in a few hours”, he said.
Recounting the incident, Ahmed’s neighbor, Fatouma, said a large swarm covered their village’s sky.
“We threw objects at them, but nothing helped. Although the government moved swiftly to spray the swarm, the damage was already done. Every single farmer in our village lost all their maize and sorghum crop”, she said.
The Afar region has faced an unprecedented locust invasion since August this year. Despite ongoing control efforts, numerous hopper bands have caused immense damage in 33 out of 34 Woredas of the region.
“Farmers need urgent support to re-plant their crops and pastoralists require emergency feed supply otherwise, the food security in the region is at risk,” said Wogris Hafa, the Head of the Livestock, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Office of Chifra Woreda.
Ethiopia has been battling locusts since June 2019. Up to October 21, 2020, over 607 000 hectares of land had been sprayed through aerial and ground operations. Despite these efforts, the desert locust threat prevails due to cross-border movements and prevailing conducive breeding conditions in the country. Numerous immature adult groups and swarms are still moving in the Amhara/Tigray highlands and Somali region (Desert Locust situation update: 19 October 2020).
Floods exacerbate the risk
Between June and September 2020, heavy and prolonged rains led to flooding in the Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Gambella, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP)’, Sidama, and Somali regions, affecting over one million people, with about 350 000 displaced.
In Aysaqita Woreda in the Afar region, Medina Solea recounts how floodwaters overflowing from the Awash River washed away all her household property, livestock, and crops.
“We ran to the mountains from where we were rescued by a helicopter.”
Now living in an Internally Displaced Persons Camp with her family of 10, Madina says, “We have nothing to start with.”
Although the Awash River frequently floods in August/September following heavy rains in the eastern highland and escarpment areas, this year’s flooding is unmatched, according to Aydahis Yasin, the Early Warning and Emergency Response Director, Afar Region.
“Over 46 000 hectares of cropland and 26 000 hectares of pasture in Afar were destroyed by floods, “he said.
Food security at stake
According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report, about 6.7 million people (in seven regions) are expected to be highly food insecure, in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), or worse between October and December 2020.
However, the new wave of desert locusts, exacerbated by economic hardships resulting from COVID-19 restrictions, and flooding will likely amplify food insecurity unless urgent action is taken, to assist the affected communities.
Alongside efforts to control desert locusts, FAO is implementing a programme to safeguard productive assets and livelihoods of the affected population in Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somalia, SNNP, and Tigray regions. The Organization is supporting over 70 000 households with agricultural inputs (seeds, tools, livestock feed, and veterinary drugs), cash transfers, training, and extension support. These interventions were informed by the May-December 2020 funding Appeal of $79 million, which is now 60 percent funded.
“With the growing humanitarian needs, we require more funds to support additional households”, said Fatouma Seid, the FAO Representative in Ethiopia.
The World Bank together with development partners has supported a Safety Net Development projects since the financial year of 2018 and it’s supposed to end by 31st December 2020. It is called by them Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). This is supposed to support farmers and secure food security across the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE).
Clearly, the fallout between the Tigray and Addis Ababa. The result of the political stalemate between Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Prosperity Party (PP) has yet another financial implication. The PP have already blocked Federal Support of the Regional Government of Tigray. Also, collaboration between the House of Federation (HoF) and Regional Government of Tigray has ceased.
Today, the news that the Federal Government are now blocking the funds and support through the World Bank Program of PSNP. A program made for farmers, secure livelihood and give the farmers social accountability. Latest support from the World Bank was in September 2020. The Federal Government got $66m USD allocated to PSNP. The funds now blocked has to be from this.
This means the state is deliberately blocking one region from accessing funds given to the whole Republic. It wasn’t given to just Amhara or Oromia. No, it was given to the government representing the whole Republic. That means, the altering of the funding, which was intended to them all.
The funders of the PSNP should react to this. Especially, if they care for the livelihood of the farmers in Tigray. If the state had blocked farmers in Ogaden or in Oromia. There would be the same reason to cry havoc. This is wrong on all basis and only done because the PP is punishing the Tigray for not following the “orders” from Addis.
The Federal Government is punishing the farmers of Tigray. That is the reality of this. The foreign donors are blocked from giving needed aid to Tigray. Just because the PP and Federal Government isn’t friendly with Mekelle at the moment.
This is tragic that foreign aid can be used like this and be suspended, because of the Napoleon Complex of the Prime Minister. Peace.
For the rest of the year, Gulu and Kasese are expected to remain at Crisis levels even while their markets are supplied with harvests.
KAMPALA, Uganda, October 7, 2020 – Ugandans in nine urban areas were at Crisis levels of food insecurity or worse for months leading to August because of negative impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown. The worst affected of were Gulu, Jinja and Kasese where nearly one in three people struggled to find nutritious food on a regular basis.
For the rest of the year, Gulu and Kasese are expected to remain at Crisis levels even while their markets are supplied with harvests.
These were some of the findings of the most comprehensive Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis conducted in Uganda to date, covering Kampala and other urban areas, the Karamoja region and refugee settlements and host communities for the first time.
The analysis was carried out by the Government of Uganda and three UN agencies and measures food insecurity from June through August and projected from September to December. It was informed in part by real-time data gathered by remote telephone monitoring of households in 13 urban areas, refugee hosting districts and Karamoja region in the northeast. It is the first time, real-time data informed the IPC on urban areas.
The IPC attributed Crisis food insecurity to the loss of livelihoods in the informal sector, tourism, the travel and events industry and the education sector, reduced remittances and reduced commercial networks due to the closure of borders.
Releasing the results of the analysis, the Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Eng. Hillary Onek, said that the Government is committed to ensuring food and nutrition security and well-being for all people in Uganda, including those in urban areas.
Speaking while releasing the results of the analysis, the Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Eng. Hillary Onek, said Government is committed to ensuring food and nutrition security and well-being for all people in the country, including those in urban areas.
“With these new findings, we now know, reliably, who the most food-insecure people are in Uganda, where they are and what we can do to save lives and preserve livelihoods. Such knowledge is critical before we take any decisions,” Mr Onek said.
“We thank our partners for working with us to come up with this very important analysis. We now must continue to work together to find solutions to the issues raised in the study,” Mr Onek added.
Currently, through a collaboration with the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the United Nations makes 10,000 calls a month to monitor food security in refugee areas, 12 urban areas and Karamoja region.
Using the real-time and other data, the IPC found that refugees in all 13 settlements in Uganda along with more than 1.3 million Ugandans in refugee-hosting districts and Karamoja region experienced Crisis or worse levels of hunger between June and August.
In Karamoja, all districts had worrying levels of malnutrition among young children and pregnant and nursing women, with malnutrition above emergency levels in Moroto and Napak.
The IPC attributed the high levels of food insecurity in refugee hosting districts and Karamoja to WFP’s ration cuts for refugees, the lockdown, floods and subsequent food losses, animal and human diseases, insecurity in some parts of Karamoja and reduced remittances as key contributors to the situation.
“Ration cuts for refugees will remain in place until we secure sufficient funding. To be able to provide full rations for refugees in the settlements until the end of 2020, WFP needs nearly US$15.3 million immediately,” said WFP Uganda Country Director, Mr El-Khidir Daloum.
FAO’s Deputy Representative, Ms Priya Gujadhur said “As part of the UN Uganda’s Emergency Appeal launched earlier this year, FAO has appealed for USD 7.8 million for food security, nutrition and livelihoods interventions. This will allow FAO to provide agricultural livelihood support and training in climate smart agricultural practices to help up to 10,000 of the most vulnerable households produce for their own consumption and diversify income sources through value chain development, thereby strengthening their resilience.”
Even with coming harvests this year, it is expected households will continue to struggle with food shortages partly because of lost incomes during the lockdown. All refugee settlements are expected to remain at Crisis level at best. Food security should improve in nine out of 12 worst-affected refugee-hosting districts. Malnutrition is expected to decline in two districts in Karamoja in the coming months.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, the Ministry for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Kampala Capital City Authority, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and WFP participated in the IPC analysis. The European Union, World Bank and UK Aid funded the exercise