The Cheat Sheet

There is a famine in South Sudan you should know about

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on January 13, 2018 Published on February 22, 2017

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South Sudan? With all due respect, you never tell us about such places and what’s happening there...

Apologies. Aid agencies working in Africa have warned that nearly 50 lakh people need urgent help to escape a disastrous famine that is now gripping war-torn South Sudan. The UN has already declared a famine in several parts of the country. Globally, that’s a first in six years.

But what exactly is a ‘famine’?

Well, according to the UN, a famine is declared when at least 20 per cent of the households in a region face extreme food shortage. Acute malnutrition here exceeds 30 per cent of the population and the death rate exceeds two persons a day per 10,000 persons. So, South Sudan has met all these unfortunate criteria.

Oh, that’s sad.

Scary, too. The numbers aid agencies have released are alarming, to say the least. Sample these: Over one lakh people are on the verge of absolute starvation and almost 10 lakh people stare at food-less days. Hundreds have already died of hunger. More than 10 lakh children suffer from acute malnutrition.

Terrible. But what’s the immediate cause here?

The region has been facing wars (internal and external) for years now. In South Sudan, which got independence in 2011, civil wars, refugee crises and a crippled economy have triggered the recent calamity. Since 2013, South Sudan has been waging a war in which more than 30 lakh people have already fled their homes. Most families have abandoned all forms of farming and have turned to menial jobs such as scavenging to earn a living. Of course, this is hardly sustainable employment. So eventually they have all have into poverty. Most families have no livestock left. As they stopped cultivating crops, inflation went up to 800 per cent year-on-year, says the UN.

But can’t the international community intervene to prevent this?

Point. In fact, famines sound touch anachronistic in this age of over-production of food and given the declining rates of global hunger.

So it’s with good reason that the aid workers are calling this famine a man-made one. This famine needs a political solution. And that’s where the international community must step in. In fact, famines are not new to this region. Southern Somalia saw one in 2011 and another during 1991-92, southern Sudan in 2008, Gode in Ethiopia’s Somali region faced a famine in 2000. And there were many other episodes of famine in Africa in the latter half of the past century itself. So, only a lasting political solution can bring in change in this troubled zone of Africa.

But humanitarian assistance can be enhanced, right?

Yes, that’s a must, and should be done fast. The UN has called for more humanitarian assistance and has asked government agencies to allow unrestricted access to aid workers. The long-term strategy should be to work towards creating stable regimes in Africa.

A study shows some 19 African countries now face socio-political crises. Of these, eight countries have autocratic regimes. They form over 80 per cent of the nearly 2 crore Africans who are internally displaced or are refugees. So a lasting solution is important. Not only international agencies but businesses too must take initiatives to solve these conflicts.

Can’t agree more.

Such a solution means business, too, given that FDI to Africa crossed $70 billion in 2014, up from $14 billion in 2004. According to the World Economic Forum, over 700 big companies earn from Africa revenues higher than $500 million.

Together, these firms boast $1.4 trillion in revenues and this can grow manifold if the region can maintain political stability.

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Published on February 22, 2017
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This article is closed for comments.
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