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South Sudan: UNICEF sounds alarm on ‘catastrophic’ food insecurity in country (06.08.2016)

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5 August 2016 The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today that it is responding to a growing food security emergency causing malnutrition in children in both rural and urban areas of crisis-gripped South Sudan.

“The situation in South Sudan is catastrophic, and even more so for children,” UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac told a news briefing in Geneva, where he also pointed out that so far this year, the agency has treated 120,000 children under age five for severe malnutrition; a nearly 50 per cent increase over the same period in 2015.

Initially, UNICEF had been planning to provide support to 166,000 children in 2016, but that figure has been revised to more than 250,000, he added.

Seven out of the country’s 10 states have reached the malnutrition-rate-emergency threshold of 15 per cent, while in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, the malnutrition rate stands at 33 per cent, he explained.

UNICEF has also noted a sharp rise in malnutrition in South Sudan’s urban areas, including the capital, Juba, where the rates of children admitted for malnutrition to UNICEF-supported Al-Sabbah children’s hospitals were some 20 per cent higher in the first six months of 2016 than for the same period last year. The spokesperson cited the country’s inflation rate as one of the main reasons for the high increase, explaining that it made basic household staples too expensive for many families.

Mr. Boulierac stated that while UNICEF could not provide figures of children dying from starvation, “one quarter of a million children in South Sudan are facing severe malnutrition.”

According to the spokesperson, with a number of roads inaccessible, the ongoing conflict has further limited UNICEF’s ability to respond – leaving, in the most urgent cases, the more expensive option of air transport for delivering supplies.

Additionally, Mr. Boulierac stressed that “due to insecurity and the rainy season, UNICEF staff in South Sudan are unable to be fully mobile and deliver their goods and services.”

Mr. Boulierac said that of the $154.5 million UNICEF needs for South Sudan in 2016, the Fund had, to date, received only $52 million to assist with water and sanitation; child support services; nutrition; health; and education.

He indicated that more than 900,000 children have been displaced in the country, which – with 1.8 million children, or 51 per cent of school-age youngsters out of school – also had the highest proportion of out-of-school children in the world.

“An estimated 16,000 children had been recruited by armed groups, and there were concerns that the renewed violence would lead to a further expansion of that practice,” explained the spokesperson.

He also called attention to the fact that sexual violence and rape had been used as a weapon of war, saying “all the ingredients were there to be extremely concerned.”

Between 8 and 25 July, at least 72 civilian deaths and 217 cases of sexual violence had been documented in Juba alone.

The spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), William Spindler, added that the total number of South Sudanese refugees in the region stood at 917,418 – most of whom are sheltering in Uganda.

The recent fighting in South Sudan between rival forces – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) loyal to President Salva Kiir and the SPLA in Opposition backing First Vice-President Riek Machar – erupted in and around Juba, on 7 July, close to the fifth anniversary of its independence.

The young country has faced ongoing challenges since a political face-off between the two leaders erupted into conflict in December 2013. The crisis has produced one of the world’s worst displacement situations with immense suffering for civilians.

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Press Statement: Unprecedented level of food insecurity in South Sudan, UN agencies warn (29.06.2016)

South Sudan Food Crisis

More than a third of the population in urgent need of food, agriculture and nutrition assistance amid risk of catastrophe in some parts of the country.

NEW YORK, United States of America, June 29, 2016Up to 4.8 million people in South Sudan – well over one-third of the population – will be facing severe food shortages over the coming months, and the risk of a hunger catastrophe continues to threaten parts of the country, three UN agencies warned today.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) stressed that while the deteriorating situation coincides with an unusually long and harsh annual lean season, when families have depleted their food stocks and new harvests are not expected until August, the level of food insecurity this year is unprecedented.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) update released today by the government, the three agencies and other humanitarian partners, 4.8 million people are projected to be in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance through July, up from 4.3 million in April. This is the highest level of hunger since the conflict in South Sudan began two-and-a-half years ago. This number does not include 350,000 residents of the UN Protection of Civilians areas or other camps for displaced people, who currently are entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance.

“We are very worried to see that food insecurity is spreading beyond conflict areas as rising prices, impassable roads and dysfunctional markets are preventing many families, even those in towns and cities, from accessing food,” said FAO Country Representative Serge Tissot.

Food insecurity and conflict are also forcing many families to leave South Sudan for neighbouring countries. In the last few months alone, an estimated 100,000 South Sudanese people have crossed into Sudan, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, and this number is expected to increase to more than 150,000 by the end of June.

“The levels of malnutrition among children continue to be truly alarming,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan. “Since the beginning of the year more than

100,000 children have been treated for severe malnutrition. That’s a 40 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, and a 150 percent increase since 2014.”

Working with a large number of international and local non-governmental organizations, FAO, UNICEF and WFP will continue to deliver life- and livelihood- saving support under these difficult circumstances.

“We are now seeing sharp spikes of need in new areas, such as Eastern Equatoria or Western Bahr el-Ghazal, where malnutrition rates in some places are reaching dangerous levels. We have started ramping up food and nutrition support, but much more is needed to keep things from deteriorating even further during the lean season,” said WFP Country Director Joyce Luma.

In 2016, FAO is planning to provide emergency livelihood support to 3.1 million people in South Sudan. It is currently distributing over half a million crop and fishing kits and is assisting livestock production through the vaccination of some 11 million animals.

The dramatic rise in malnutrition rates, means that in the first four months of the year UNICEF has already treated 45 per cent of its planned 2016 caseload of 166,000 children.

WFP plans to assist  3.3 million people in South Sudan this year through a combination of emergency food assistance, lifesaving nutrition support for mothers and young children, community-based asset-creation projects where possible, and safety net programmes such as school meals.

UNHCR and FAO help vulnerable refugees and South Sudanese families strengthen their food security (02.06.2016)

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ROME, Italy, June 2, 2016The UN Refugee Agency and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have distributed seeds and agricultural tools to 200,000 refugees and their host communities across South Sudan to help them become more self-sufficient in a country facing a serious food crisis.

Assessments have shown that the food and nutrition security situation is worrying in many parts of the country, including in Upper Nile – a region hosting four refugee camps and South Sudan’s largest refugee population of 134,000 Sudanese refugees. A nutrition survey, conducted in late 2015, found that Upper Nile’s Maban refugee camps registered higher levels of malnutrition compared to 2014. This was particularly the case in Doro camp, where the rates of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) were respectively 15.5 percent and 2.6 percent – above UNHCR standards of 10 percent and 2 percent.

“To quickly respond to high malnutrition rates we are distributing nutritious food for children under five years and all pregnant and breast feeding mothers. We are pleased to announce that these interventions are working well, but we are also looking beyond quick-fix solutions that help refugees become more self-reliant and less dependent on humanitarian assistance in the long run. This is the essence of the UNHCR-FAO partnership,” says Ahmed Warsame, UNHCR Representative.

This year, the two UN agencies have jointly contributed 186 tons of crop seeds, assorted vegetable seeds, hand tools and fishing kits for refugees and local communities in Unity, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Central Equatoria and Western Equatoria. This donation will enable communities to start planting their cereals and replenish their stocks, in so decreasing food shortages.

“People here lack the resources to buy the things they need to start planting and need support to be able to produce their own food. These distributions have been very timely since the planting season has just started,” says Serge Tissot, FAO Representative. “It is vital to strengthen the livelihoods of vulnerable communities in the long-term so that they can become more resilient, absorbing shocks and increasing their access to food through their own means.”

While many have received assistance through direct distributions in the past, in 2016 refugees in Central Equatoria were invited to attend seed fairs for the first time. With this FAO, in partnership with UNHCR, strives to help transform agriculture in South Sudan by facilitating the sale of high quality local seeds instead of imported seeds. At the fair, vulnerable farmers were issued with vouchers to be exchanged with local traders for seeds which directly injected cash into the local economy.

“Without seed distributions we cannot survive. Not all of us are able to maintain seeds for next year, some people do, but because of a lack of food, sometimes we are forced to eat the seeds maintained for planting,” Michelle, Sudanese refugee from Blue Nile State. “We hope for peace so that we can return home, where we can be free,” she added.

FAO and UNHCR are committed towards increasing refugees’ access to livelihood opportunities and reducing dependency on humanitarian aid. Of late, a joint livelihood strategy for South Sudan was launched looking to address this issue with a clearly defined action plan. The strategy targets both refugees (70 percent) and local communities (30 percent) in refugee-hosting areas across the country.

Press Statement: Increased displacement out of South Sudan into Sudan fuelled by food insecurity

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This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 29 March 2016, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is concerned by the increasing number of South Sudanese fleeing into Sudan because of increased food insecurity caused by the ongoing conflict and deteriorating economic conditions. Heightened food insecurity and growing unrest in parts of South Sudan, especially in the north-western States of Northern Bahr El Ghazal and Warrap, have resulted in the flight of some 38,000 people into East and South Darfur since end of January. UNHCR fears the situation could quickly worsen as the nutrition situation in Upper Nile, Warrap, and Northern Bahr Ghazal grows increasingly serious.

The Government of Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission reported the arrival of 2,328 South Sudanese in El Meiram and 2,520 in Kharasana, in West Kordofan State. These new arrivals, which may be under-counted, have reached Sudan in poor health, many having risked their lives en route. They need humanitarian help including food, water, basic relief items, SGBV prevention and response as well as family reunification. UNHCR led a mission to El Meiram on 20 and 21 March to assess the level and nature of the needs. In East Darfur, an average of 500 South Sudanese or 100 households have been arriving per day, rising to over 150 households last week, with a total of 35,234 as of 23 March, and more are expected in the coming days.

Souh Sudan Grass

They have mostly settled in Khor Omer IDP camp, with smaller numbers arriving in the villages of Adila, Bahr Alara, Asalaya, Abu Karinka and Abu Jabra. The situation is desperate with most new arrivals having travelled up to 4 weeks before reaching Khor Omer, carrying few personal belongings and in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. UNHCR will coordinate, along with OCHA, the overall humanitarian response, which focuses on the areas of protection, public health and nutrition, sanitation, basic relief items, SGBV prevention and response as well as child protection. UNHCR is also advocating for direct access to East Darfur to support the response.

In South Darfur, over 2000 new arrivals were registered in Beliel Camp. Many of them arrived with no identification documents and are in need of humanitarian assistance, in particular food and hygiene items such as soap and jerry cans. Many children have been separated from their families. UNHCR led an inter-agency needs assessment mission last week to determine the needs of both the new arrivals and the host communities, which are over-stretched as each household is hosting an additional 25 to 35 people. The assessment indicates that refugees have faced insecurity en route to Sudan, are now living in overcrowded conditions with many of them being sick and in need of medical attention.

Peacekeeper Sudan

The conflict that erupted in South Sudan in December 2013 has produced one of the world’s largest humanitarian emergencies with 2.3 million people forced to flee their homes, 678,000 of these across borders as refugees and 1.69 million displaced inside the country. Growing food insecurity and ongoing conflict are causing more and more South Sudanese to flee either across borders or inside the country. They are among 2.8 million people across South Sudan officially classified as facing a ‘crisis’ or ’emergency’ of food insecurity, according to Fewsnet, the global body mandated to monitor such situations.

With the number of South Sudanese fleeing their country increasing rapidly, UNHCR is extremely worried that the 2016 South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) that covers the refugee programmes in the neighbouring countries, run by UNHCR and 39 partners, is only funded at 3 per cent. This leaves many lifesaving activities such as the provision of clean water, sanitation and health services, food and shelter severely underfunded.

Press Release: EU provides €5 million in humanitarian aid for the Burundian crisis (17.12.2015)

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The European Commission has today released €5 million in new humanitarian assistance to help the increasing number of Burundians affected by the ongoing instability in the country.

The European Commission has today released €5 million in new humanitarian assistance to help the increasing number of Burundians affected by the ongoing instability in the country. The additional support brings total Commission humanitarian aid to help the Burundian people to €14 million in 2015.

More than 220 000 people, over half of whom are children, are estimated to have left the country since April this year to neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda.

“The humanitarian situation affecting Burundians is worsening. The refugee numbers are rising, with almost a quarter of a million people having now fled their homes. This is extremely worrying – both for Burundi, and for the neighbouring countries whose hosting capabilities have been stretched to the limit. Hosting government’s efforts in welcoming those who fled the violence are commendable. This additional EU funding will help address the refugees’ most pressing needs, notably in Tanzania. It will also contribute to humanitarian protection activities inside Burundi.” said EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.

The most urgent humanitarian needs to address remain shelter, water and sanitation, as well as health assistance to stop the possible surge of diseases and epidemics, notably cholera.

Background:

Following the announcement on 25 April 2015 that President Pierre Nkurunziza would seek a third mandate, provoking serious political division, Burundi has undergone a sustained political and security crisis  – this crisis brought with it a surge in the number of refugees.

Tanzania has received the highest number of Burundian refugees so far (nearly 117 000) mostly to the Nyarugusu refugee camp, which was already hosting some 60 000 Congolese refugees. Nyarugusu has consequently become one of the largest and most overcrowded refugee camps in the world. While two news camps are under construction to decongest Nyarugusu, living conditions there continue to be dire. Hundreds of people still live in overcrowded mass shelters months after their arrival, while wet floors and cramped conditions increase risks of respiratory infections and waterborne diseases.

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