THE BLOG

World Refugee Day: Shameful That Tens of Thousands of Children in South Sudan Could Die From Lack of Food

20/06/2014 17:19 BST | Updated 20/08/2014 10:59 BST
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Almost a million people have been forced to leave their homes in South Sudan following months of violent conflict. Over one million are displaced and dispersed in hard to reach areas in the country, and over 350,000 more have fled South Sudan for refuge in neighbouring nations.

These statistics, like many others you will no doubt read today on World Refugee Day are shocking in their scale. Unless we act now, these numbers will be about death rather than displacement - because famine is looming. 30 years after the devastating famine in Ethiopia, when nearly a million people died, it would be utterly shameful to see children in South Sudan lose their precious lives, simply because they didn't have enough food to eat.

With the UN and international NGOs all warning of a catastrophe, we cannot claim that we didn't know that famine in South Sudan was a possibility. The UN has stated that 50,000 children could die and that more than a third of the population will be on the brink of starvation by the end of 2014. There are no excuses - action is needed now.

To be fair, the international community hasn't completely ignored South Sudan, and there are many competing humanitarian crises that are no less important. But the pledge of $600 million in aid to South Sudan isn't enough. We need more money - and we need it now - so that the programmes, such as the ones Concern Worldwide are running which effectively treat acute malnutrition among children under five, can be scaled up and save more lives.

We are not naive enough to claim that aid alone can solve this problem. South Sudan was a country that struggled to feed itself before the fighting started but it is this conflict that has tipped the balance into the possibility of famine.

A glimmer of hope came last week when it was announced that both parties to the conflict had agreed to halt the fighting and that a transitional government is to be formed within 60 days. Previous deals to end the violence have been broken by both sides. It is essential that the fragile peace holds and increased donor funds are made available now so that we can act fast and ensure that the children of South Sudan don't die of hunger.