United Nations agencies warned in February that more than 7 million people in South Sudan would face severe food insecurity in mere months — and now that prediction seems to be playing out, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

Political conflict that began in 2013 has led to fighting and reduced food production, which was made worse by an economic collapse, according to UN News. Thousands of people have been displaced in South Sudan as a result of increased violence in recent months.

"From what I’ve witnessed and what displaced people tell me, a worst-case nightmare scenario is already on our doorstep," Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the NRC who is in the country, said in a news release. "Widows tell me how their villages were burned to the ground, their husbands killed, and they are left with children they cannot feed nor protect."

"I am outraged by how rape has become a common feature of the conflict," Egeland added. 

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It has become progressively more difficult for aid agencies to reach people in many regions and specifically in parts of Unity and Equatorial States, NRC reported.

Aid workers are prevented from delivering assistance — NRC had to put a hold on emergency food distribution in Unity State in May due to conflict.

"Food drops are desperate measures in desperate times. But without this lifeline, an already bleak situation would turn into a total catastrophe. With peace, South Sudan, with its vast fertile lands, could easily be a breadbasket for Africa," Egeland said.

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Extended dry spells, flooding, and pest infestation have also contributed to the state of the famine.

The UN projections for February to April put 6.3 million people in "crisis," "emergency" or "catastrophe" levels of food insecurity. The May to July prediction indicated the number would jump to 7.1 million, and Egeland is beginning to see these numbers firsthand.

"This is a brutal war carried out largely on civilians. Men with weapons and power are continuing a senseless conflict that end up costing lots of innocent lives including women and children," Egeland said.

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Humanitarian aid remains necessary in South Sudan, and increased access to hard-to-reach areas is essential in ensuring food delivery.

Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including issues related to food insecurity around the world. You can take action here.


Defeat Poverty

More Than 7 Million People in South Sudan Could Soon Face Starvation

By Jackie Marchildon