Thousands face hunger as food aid cuts

Children outside the UN tent in South Sudan

Aid workers have told the BBC that two children and an adult in South Sudan have died of starvation as the suspension of food aid begins.

The death occurred in a camp for displaced persons in the northern state of Wallup.

Earlier, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said it had suspended the country’s rationing scheme due to a lack of funding.

In June, the agency said it needed $426 million (£352 million) to continue distributing food.

But that aid didn’t come as the international community focused on other overlapping crises, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

One of the children was only five years old, Sami Al Subaihi, a MSF staff member at the camp, told the BBC.

“I found the mother of one of the children sitting next to a small grave just dug by her five-year-old son,” he said. “Her three other children, all very thin, were sitting at the entrance of the family’s makeshift shelter.”

He added that more than 20,000 people living in displacement camps are at risk of starvation.

“In one camp, I saw people collapsed and exhausted. They had apparently not had enough food for a while. I didn’t see anyone cooking, nor did I see any food stored in shelters.”

WFP officials confirmed to the BBC that rations had been stopped in the country last week, adding that more than 60 percent of the 11 million people were now facing hunger.

On June 14, the agency said it had “exhausted all options before suspending food aid, including halving rations in 2021 to allow families in need to eat less”.

South Sudan has been plagued by violence since independence in 2011, resulting in food insecurity, despite the formation of a unity government in 2020.

The situation has only gotten worse after four consecutive seasons of floods damaged homes and farmland and displaced tens of thousands of people.

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