The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday warned of a looming hunger emergency on the border between South Sudan and Sudan as families fleeing fighting in Sudan continue to cross the border every day.
The WFP said new data gathered shows that among the nearly 300,000 people who have arrived in South Sudan in the last five months, one in five children are malnourished and 90 percent of families say they are going multiple days without eating.
Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP’s country director in South Sudan, said they are seeing families leave one disaster for another as they flee danger in Sudan only to find despair in South Sudan. “The humanitarian situation for returnees is unacceptable and WFP is struggling to meet the mounting humanitarian needs at the border. We simply do not have the resources to provide life-saving assistance to those who need it most,” McGroarty said in a statement in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
The WFP said the returnees who crossed the border since fighting broke out in Sudan in mid-April are South Sudanese and they are returning to a country already facing unprecedented humanitarian needs. It said a new food security assessment completed by the WFP showed that 90 percent of returnee families are experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity. Screening data from the border crossing found that almost 20 percent of children under the age of five and more than a quarter of pregnant and breastfeeding women are malnourished.
The WFP is providing food assistance to meet the immediate needs of the families at the border, delivering hot meals, high-energy biscuits, dry rations, and cash-based transfers, as well as providing specialized nutrition support for children and mothers, the statement said, adding that the rainy season has made conditions at crowded transit centers and border crossings even more difficult, with flooding worsening food insecurity and contributing to the spread of disease.
According to the statement, the WFP urgently requires more than 120 million U.S. dollars to increase support for people fleeing conflict in Sudan into South Sudan over the next few months. Across South Sudan, the WFP has a funding gap of 536 million dollars over the next six months and was only able to reach 40 percent of food-insecure people with food assistance in 2023.