U.N. seeks 1.3 billion dollars in humanitarian funding for South Sudan

Aid agencies have launched a humanitarian appeal for 2016 calling for 1.3 billion U.S. dollars to provide vital assistance to 5.1 million people across South Sudan. Two years of conflict, high food prices and a worsening economy have pushed over 5 million South Sudanese into hunger.

REMBEK, SOUTH SUDAN (UNHCR) – The United Nations is seeking 1.3 billion U.S. dollars in humanitarian aid for South Sudan, where two out of ten people have been driven from their homes during two years of conflict.

More than 10,000 people have been killed and 2.3 million displaced since the country’s civil war broke out in December 2013, when soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir first clashed with troops who backed his deputy, Riek Machar

Eugene Owusu, the U.N. Humanitarian Co-ordinator for South Sudan, said 1.3 billion dollars would be the “bare minimum” needed to support 5.1 million people in the country facing life-threatening circumstances.

“Hunger and malnutrition are present in locations that were previously considered stable. About 3.9 million people according to the IPA (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) — nearly one in every three people in South Sudan – were severely food insecure as of September 2015, including according to the IPA which was launched by government partners – including some 30,000 people who were facing catastrophic food insecurity. And according to official estimates, more than 680,000 children under the age of five are estimated to be acutely malnourished, including 230,000 who are severely malnourished,” said Owusu.

The U.N. says over 600,000 children below the age of five are acutely malnourished.

The humanitarian consequences of two years of warfare in South Sudan remain severe — the crisis has created a food crisis for many of the nation’s 11 million people.

Much of the fighting has been along ethnic lines between Kiir’s Dinka community and Machar’s Nuer people.

Progress on a peace deal signed by leaders last year has been slow, with both sides accusing the other of violating the agreement and dragging their heels over plans to form a government of national unity.

“The challenge we face is unprecedented. It is the sincere hope of the humanitarian community that 2016 will bring long-lasting peace to this young and potentially great nation and replace the desperation and devastation we have seen in 2015 with hope for a brighter future,” said Owusu.

The conflict marked by brutal violence against civilians has also devastated South Sudan’s economy, slashing the oil production that funds most public spending.