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South Sudan: looming hunger emergency for families fleeing war

Families fleeing fighting in Sudan continue to cross the border into South Sudan en masse. As a result, a famine emergency is looming, the UN World Food Programme reports.

A temporary refugee camp in the town of Renk in South Sudan is overflowing with starving children. Their families are fleeing fighting in Sudan.

In total, more than 300,000 people have arrived in South Sudan. One in five children is malnourished, with 90 per cent of families saying they have not eaten for days, WFP said after collecting new data.

According to data collected at the border, more than a quarter of pregnant, breastfeeding women, and nearly 20 per cent of children under the age of five are malnourished. Ngacheu, a South Sudanese refugee and a mother of nine, said:

When we ran from Khartoum, we left everything behind, and now we are suffering here. Especially because of the rain and the health of my child. I can’t do anything else because he needs constant care.

The rainy season worsened conditions in Renk refugee camp and forced South Sudanese refugees to build temporary shelters in the quagmire. Floods have also caused the spread of disease and exacerbated an already critical hunger situation. Kathleen Inglis, WFP Emergency Coordinator, said:

Since I’ve been here I’ve seen the condition of people deteriorating rapidly. That is what the UN is here trying to support to make sure that we are providing that lifesaving assistance so people can survive, not only their entry but also their onward journeys into South Sudan.

The Renk refugee camp cannot help all those who have crossed the border to seek rescue. There are no roads to transport refugees, so they can only leave Renk on barges travelling to Malaka town. This crossing can take up to 3 days or more.

Revised in August 2023, this Sudan Regional Emergency Response Plan (RERP) extends the original six-month plan until the end of the year. It also reflects updated population targets (increased from 1.2 million to 1.8 million refugees, returnees and third country nationals) and increased financial requirements (increased from $556 million to $1.005 billion).

Since fighting erupted in Sudan in the middle of April, at least 7,500 people have lost their lives, an estimate by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project showed.

Multiple truces have failed to stop the violence that has driven tens of thousands over Sudan’s borders and raised fears of a humanitarian crisis engulfing the wider region.

The World Food Programme said that South Sudanese, who account for almost all the refugees arriving in South Sudan, “are returning to a country already facing unprecedented humanitarian needs.”

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