Feb 22 2017

South Sudan declares world's first famine since 2012

(Council on Foreign Relations)

The South Sudanese government and the United Nations declared a famine affecting a hundred thousand people (Sudan Tribune) in Unity state, saying that an additional one million South Sudanese are on the brink of famine. It is the first famine to be declared anywhere in the world since 2012, when six West African nations saw severe food shortages following a drought in the Sahel region. The World Food Program chief in South Sudan, Joyce Luma, called the famine “man-made” and blamed it on a civil war that has followed a 2013 political dispute. The UN also warned that severe malnutrition could claim the lives of 1.4 million children this year in Yemen, Nigeria, and Somalia.

“South Sudan, which became independent from Sudan in 2011 with strong support from the U.S. government and the international community, descended into conflict in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir fired his vice president, Riek Machar. The ensuing war took on ethnic overtones, with Kiir’s Dinka group battling members of Machar’s Nuer group. Tens of thousands of people have died, and more than 1.5 million have fled the country. The U.N. officials said that war had disrupted agriculture, the main occupation in many parts of the country, crippling the economy and leaving people unable to feed themselves,” Rael Ombuor writes for the Washington Post.

“The meltdown of the world’s newest state poses a fundamental challenge to the international state system, to African and Western models of state-building, and to UN peacekeeping. Since 2005, the United States alone has devoted more than $11 billion in humanitarian, peacekeeping/ security sector, and transition and reconstruction assistance to help the South Sudanese secure self-determination, with no end in sight. UN peacekeeping in the two Sudans since 2004 has cost approximately $20 billion, the costliest peace interventions in the last decade, to which the United States has contributed more than a quarter of the funding,” Katherine Almquist Knopf writes in a CFR special report.

“If you look at the public expenditure per capita of South Sudan at independence, it was eight or nine times higher than that in Ethiopia. It was five times than in Uganda. This was a middle-income country with a lot of money. Whatever you may think of the Ethiopian government—and their human rights record leaves a lot to be desired—if you go to Ethiopia, you see that that money is being used for public good—a lot of infrastructure, a lot of health services—a huge physical material transformation of the country and economic development. In South Sudan, it was just either stolen by elites or spent on the military,” Alex de Waal said in a CFR interview.

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