Oxfam warns of a race against time, as famine declared in parts of South Sudan

Oxfam warns of a race against time, as famine declared in parts of South Sudan

20 Febuary 2017

As the UN and the government of South Sudan have today declared famine in parts of the war-torn country, Oxfam is warning that time is running out.

This is the UN’s first confirmation of famine anywhere in the world since 2011.

Unity State is the region most affected by severe food shortages – caused by ongoing conflict and economic turmoil – with more than 100,000 people facing starvation. Reports suggest that more than 40% of South Sudan is in urgent need of food, while more than a million people throughout the country could be on the brink of famine.

Oxfam has been working there for over 30 years and is currently distributing emergency food supplies; delivering clean water to prevent the spread of disease; and providing livelihoods support. In the past year alone, Oxfam has helped over 600,000 people across the country with food and water distributions, and assisted almost 40,000 of the most vulnerable in Panyijar county, Unity State.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken, who has lived and worked in the region, said: “This is a man-made tragedy, and we are running out of time to avoid it getting worse. 

“In over 30 years working in the affected areas, Oxfam has never witnessed such dire need. Vulnerable people, out of reach of life-saving assistance due to the conflict, are paying the ultimate price. People have been pushed to the brink of surviving on what they can find to eat in swamps. As so often in a crisis, women and children being the worst affected. We need an end to the fighting so that we can get food to those that urgently need it and provide them with support to rebuild their shattered lives”. 

“In 2011 after the famine that hit Somalia the world said never again. The declaration of famine in South Sudan reflects the collective failure to heed the countless warnings of an ever-worsening situation”. 

ENDS 

For further information or to arrange an interview: 

Phillip Graham – T: 00 44 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org 

NOTES TO THE EDITOR 

About South Sudan

Following decades of fighting, South Sudan formally became an independent state in July 2011. There was high expectation for growth and many believed they would not see another conflict in the country they fought so hard and so long for. Sadly, war erupted in Juba in mid-December 2013 and quickly transformed into a national, political and ethnic crisis. 

Since then, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced. Of these 830,000 have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The crisis has made it hard for people to plant crops, disrupted livelihoods and markets and forced host and displaced communities to share the little they do have, leaving one in three people severely food insecure.

Oxfam has been assisting populations in South Sudan since the 1980s providing food security and water, sanitation and hygiene assistance. 

Spokespeople 

Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview now, both in the region and in Ireland:

Emma Jane Drew, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Programme Manager, based in Juba, South Sudan 

Oxfam Ireland Humanitarian Manager Colm Byrne has visited Oxfam programmes in South Sudan numerous times and is available for interview in Dublin.

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken, who lived and worked in the region, is available for interview in Dublin.