Famine in South Sudan

Authors: Jennifer Kim and Gabriella LoConte
World Information Transfer UN Interns, fall 2011


Even before its secession from Sudan in July 2011, South Sudan has suffered a long history of famine perpetuated by decades of civil wars between southern and northern Sudan. In 1998, Sudan underwent a catastrophic famine caused by draught and a lack of expedient action; the fragile infrastructure caused by civil conflicts between southern rebels and the government slowed down aid and made the famine even more severe. (4) In 2001, Sudan was again threatened by protracted periods of drought (5). As a result, in 2001, prevalence of child malnutrition was at 48%; in 2000, prevalence of acute child malnutrition was 22%; and in 2003, the proportion of the population in southern Sudan facing a food deficit was at 23%. (6)

Currently, UN agencies warn South Sudan, having only recently gained independence, is once again in danger of upcoming food shortages due to “internal and border insecurity, erratic rains and a huge influx of returnees from the north”. (7) An estimated 36% of South Sudan’s population were moderately or severely food insecure in 2011. The country also faces problems from security issues with ongoing violence from demobilized South Sudanese troops, as well as from cut profits caused by increasing inflation rates. (7) Additionally, while the secession itself happened peacefully, there remain border conflicts; an estimated over 8,000 refugees have moved to South Sudan in an effort to escape the violence in Southern Kordofan, and 7,500 escaped to the country to flee from the Lord’s Resistance Army. (7)

Reaction from NGOs and the Media

NGOs have a history of prevalence in Southern Sudan. Specifically, many have been very supportive in increasing the food security in this developing country.

BRAC has launched an innovative pilot project in Sudan in 2008 near Juba, an eight-acre collective demonstration farm using modern agriculture methods. In the years following, the program expanded to four other states. They have agencies in the area to coordinate the programme and ensure timely input supply to farmers, organize training for farmers, and also conduct overall programme supervision. The agriculture entrepreneurs/extension workers received 12-day advanced training in modern agricultural practices as well as seeds and tools from BRAC for their own cultivation. (2)
BRAC however is not alone in the cause. The World Food Programme has developed its emergency assistance significantly in 2010. By May, 2.1 million people across Southern Sudan were provided assistance by the agency. Emergency assistance continued throughout the summer during the hunger gap/lean-season period, which lasts between May-July. 60,000 metric tons of food has been prepositioned to over 60 locations throughout the country, making assistance feasible and cost effective. This program ameliorated the food security in locations such as Jonglei, Warrap, and the Upper Nile, which are inaccessible for transporters during the rainy season and also are the states with the highest levels of food insecurity. (1)

The Food and Agriculture Organization, along with 52 partner organizations, have developed programs throughout Sudan, directed toward increasing the yield in crop production during the season running from late March to November. The programs aim to distribute seed packages for cereals, pulses, and oils according to local conditions. Seed distributions have been completed in four states: Warrap. Upper Nile, Central Equatoria, and Western Equatoria. Not all areas have been reached due to inaccessibility. (1)
On October 13, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with Catholic Relief Services and its implementing partners Save the Children and Joint Aid Management, launched the Jonglei Food Security Program to support communities and the government of South Sudan in addressing the root causes of food insecurity throughout Jonglei State. This program aids communities that previously received emergency food assistance in order to help in their recovery. USAID is committing $54 million to the program, which will help meet the needs of nearly 150,000 chronically and temporarily food-insecure households in Akobo, Ayod, Bor, Nyirol, Pibor, Pochalla, Twic East, and Wuror in Jonglei State. Program began in October 2011 and will run for three years. (3)

The media recognizes the threat of famine in South Sudan. Various news outlets like the Guardian, the Sudan Tribune, and The Lancet not only review ongoing efforts made against the threat of famine, but also inform the public about South Sudan’s current famine threat. Additionally, agencies like USAID publish press releases that also keep the public informed about efforts to aid South Sudan. (9)


1 “Humanitarian Update Southern Sudan.” OCHA- Sudan 3 (2010): 1-4. Print.

2 “Where We Work : Southern Sudan : Agriculture & Food Security | BRAC-Where We Work : Southern Sudan : Agriculture & Food Security.” BRAC. Web. 09 Nov. 2011. .

3 “USAID Funds Program to Reduce Food Insecurity in South Sudan.” USAID, 13 Oct. 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. .

4 “Despite aid effort, Sudan famine squeezing life from dozens daily.” CNN World. 31 July 1998. Web. 09 Nov. 2011. .

5 “Sudan famine warning.” BBC News. 29 Mar. 2001. Web. 09 Nov. 2011. .

6 “Sudan: Institutional Capacity Programme Food Security Information for Action.” Khartoum Food Aid Forum. 30 Nov. 2005. Web. 09 Nov. 2011 .

7 “South Sudan facing severe food shortages, UN agencies warn.” The Guardian. 29 Sept. 2011. Web. 09 Nov. 2011. .

8 “South Sudan faces grim health and humanitarian situation.” Wakabi, Wairagala. The Lancet. 25 June. 2011. Web. 09 Nov. 2011. .

9 “USAID Funds Program to Reduce Food Insecurity in South Sudan.” USAID. 13 Oct. 2011. Web. 09 Nov. 2011. .