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Famine warning in South Sudan

29 May 2018

Conflict and crop failures are the reasons why millions of people are at risk of a new wave of hunger.

People are forced to eat grass

"Our harvest was destroyed by army worms. Now we have no food and money is hard to come by. The food that is sold is expensive and we cannot afford to buy it. Nowadays we eat mostly grass and weeds. It makes us sick, we have diarrhea and dysentery, but what choice do we have? We have to survive."

Ayichi from Pibor.

Four years of conflict have depleted food stocks and weakened communities' ability to withstand crises. In Pibor, located in Boma state in eastern South Sudan, food availability has been severely reduced after crops were destroyed by pests and floods, and a fifth of households have already reached starvation levels.

South Sudan suffered a severe hunger crisis in 2017, with famine declared in Leer and Mayendit. With the help of large relief efforts, the crisis was prevented from growing and many lives were saved, but after last year's poor harvest, and with this year's harvests not expected until July, South Sudan is once again facing a disaster.

"I lost my son last year due to hunger. I don't want to lose another child," says Aria, 36, from Pibor.

Oxfam has deployed emergency teams in Pibor, distributing clean water and soap and working with communities to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea that can be fatal when people are malnourished.

"Relief efforts have so far managed to keep hunger at bay, but needs are growing at such an alarming rate that Oxfam and other aid organizations are struggling to keep up," said Nicolo Di Marzo, Oxfam's Country Director in South Sudan.

"Pibor has no functioning water system, so people drink dirty water from the river. This can have deadly consequences, especially if you are already malnourished. We are repairing water sources, distributing water purification kits and soap. Even if people are eating, if they don't have access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, they can face serious problems," said Servasius Koli, an Oxfam disaster response team member.

Oxfam reaches over 550,000 people in South Sudan with clean drinking water and food. We help people earn a living and keep themselves and their families safe from disease.