Oxfam and other aid agencies are warning that rival groups in South Sudan are regrouping ready to resume violence once the rainy season ends this month. An upsurge in fighting would exacerbate what is already the world's worst food crisis and could lead to famine. The number of people facing dangerous levels of hunger is expected to increase by one million between January and March.
Before this conflict started in December, there was no inspiring and unifying vision of what South Sudan could be. The hope and optimism that came with independence is gone. Instead, there is now fear, mistrust and disillusionment between the people of South Sudan. An amazing opportunity has been squandered. It may take years to re-build a sense of unity.
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Recent science analysis predicts that we are heading for between 4- 6°C of global warming. Such rapid change in our climate system will bring about profound and in some cases catastrophic damages. This is the stuff science fiction movies are made of: Storms and typhoons will be more frequent and will kill more lives and destroy more infrastructures.
We cannot abandon the people of South Sudan at such a moment of renewed need, whatever our frustrations. They have suffered so long for their prized independence and deserve so much better. But even if the present crisis is mitigated by some kind of agreement after even worse north-south brinkmanship than we are used to, the international community will have to demand much more and better from the government in Juba, as well as pressing Khartoum. The message may be unwelcome. But accepting responsibility is part of independence too.
The fact remains though that we need to talk about famine. Perhaps not in the technical UN-defined sense of the word. But in the dictionary sense of the word: extreme and general scarcity of food, as in a country or a large geographical area. With so many lives potentially at stake, now is not the time to dodge the issue.