South Sudan’s hunger is growing, despite 5 months of peace

In this Wednesday, April 5, 2017 file photo, people walk to reach a food distribution site in Malualkuel, the Northern Bahr el Ghazal region of South Sudan. (AP)
Updated 26 February 2019

South Sudan’s hunger is growing, despite 5 months of peace

  • The critical conditions are being attributed to displacement driven by conflict, low crop production, an enduring economic crisis and restricted humanitarian access

JUBA, South Sudan: Five months into South Sudan’s fragile peace, 1.5 million people are on the brink of starvation and half the population, more than six million people, are facing extreme hunger, say the United Nations and South Sudan’s government in a report issued Friday.
Without aid more than 7.5 million people will be at risk of extreme hunger, 260,000 of whom could slip into catastrophe, at risk of starvation, by May, a 70 percent increase compared to the same time last year, said the report.
Aid agencies are concerned that months after the end of South Sudan’s five-year civil war, which killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions, that populations are still starving.
“There has been no countrywide improvement since last year, this is the start of a concerning trend with the same number of people struggling to access basic food requirements,” Katie Rickard country representative for REACH, a humanitarian research initiative that contributed data for the analysis told The Associated Press.
It’s been two years since South Sudan declared famine in two counties in Unity state, the first formally declared famine anywhere in the world since Somalia’s crisis in 2011. While famine hasn’t returned the numbers are grim. 18 counties are currently classified as being in emergency with 45,000 people in Jonglei, Lakes and Unity states in catastrophe, said the report.
“Without food aid there would be a full blown famine,” said one aid worker with close knowledge of the report who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.
The critical conditions are being attributed to displacement driven by conflict, low crop production, an enduring economic crisis and restricted humanitarian access.
Despite a 2017 decree by President Salva Kiir for unhindered access, aid workers still struggle to reach the most vulnerable people. In January the number of bureaucratic impediments such as delays and blockages at checkpoints almost tripled from 2018, according to the UN In December supplies were stopped at the border and trucks traveling between Juba and Bentiu were each charged approximately $4,500 to pass through almost 60 checkpoints.
“It is unacceptable that over half of the population faces severe acute food insecurity whilst humanitarian workers continue to be killed and detained,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s deputy director of research. The government should stop this man-made humanitarian crisis, she said.
Breaking the cycle of hunger is partly contingent on the implementation of the peace deal and the cease-fire’s ability to hold, said Friday’s report. But even then it’ll take more than a year to pull the country out of crisis especially as people start to return home, Pierre Vauthier a representative for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization told The Associated Press.
“The population needs humanitarian assistance ... very quickly we will need to help them reintegrate,” he said. 2019 will be a defining year and the focus needs to be on increasing food production, he said.
In parts of the country that have been cut off for years due to fighting and where communities have fled so there’s been little cultivation, the government is concerned people will have nothing to eat when they decide to come home.
“People have been away for almost three years they’re coming barehanded to start at zero, there’s no food,” said Emmanuel Richard, commissioner for Kupera County in Central Equatoria state. In recent weeks people have started trickling back in but they struggle to survive, eating wild fruits from the trees to sustain themselves, said Richard.
With only three months left in the pre-transitional phase of the peace deal, the international community’s patience is waning as the agreement’s been met with delays and continued fighting.
In a statement this week, Norway the UK and the U.S, the troika which helped usher South Sudan to independence, said it was “alarmed” and “disturbed” by the recent escalation in fighting around Yei, which risked undermining the peace agreement and lowering confidence about the parties’ commitment to the accord.
As South Sudan grapples to pick up the pieces after years of war, civilians across the country continue bearing the brunt.
Shielding himself from the hot sun, 23-year-old student Mobio Mayar stands under a tree in the town of Wau one arm crossed over his skinny frame.
“The situation is worse than last year,” he said. “We don’t have work, there’s no food and no water. Sometimes I sleep without eating.”


US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

Updated 31 October 2020

US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

  • On Friday the US set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours
  • More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began

WASHINGTON: The United States passed nine million reported coronavirus cases on Friday and broke its own record for daily new infections for the second day in a row, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, as Covid-19 surges days before the country chooses its next president.
The US, which has seen a resurgence of its outbreak since mid-October, has now notched up 9,034,295 cases, according to a real-time count by the Baltimore-based school.
On Friday the country set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours, breaking the record of 91,000 it had set just one day earlier.
With the virus spreading most rampantly in the Midwest and the South, hospitals are also filling up again, stretching the health care system just as the nation heads in to flu season.
"We are not ready for this wave," Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University school of public health, warned on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday.

COVID-19 tally by the John Hopkins University of Medicine as of October 30, 2020.

Authorities in El Paso, Texas, imposed a curfew this week to protect "overwhelmed" health care workers and began setting up field hospitals.
But a judge's attempt to shut down non-essential businesses in the city has been challenged by the mayor and the state's attorney general, the Washington Post reported.
Midwestern state Wisconsin has also set up a field hospital in recent weeks, and hospital workers in Missouri were sounding warning bells as cases rise.
Hospitals in the western state of Utah were preparing to ration care by as early as next week as patients flood their ICUs, according to local media.
The pattern of the pandemic so far shows that hospitalizations usually begin to rise several weeks after infections, and deaths a few weeks after that.
More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began, the Hopkins tally showed as of Friday, with the daily number of deaths creeping steadily upwards in recent weeks also -- though at present it remains below peak levels.
For months public health officials have been warning of a surge in cases as cooler fall weather settles over the US, driving more people indoors.
As the weather changes, New York and other parts of the northeast, which were the epicenter of the US outbreak in the spring but largely controlled the virus over the summer, were reporting a worrying rise.
Some epidemiologists believe that Covid-19 spreads more easily in drier, cool air.
Rural areas, which in the spring appeared to be getting off lightly compared to crowded cities, were also facing spikes with states like North Dakota charting one of the steepest rises in recent weeks.
The state is so overwhelmed that earlier this month it told residents they have to do their own contact tracing, local media reported.
With four days to go until the election, Donald Trump was battling to hold on to the White House against challenger Joe Biden, who has slammed the president's virus response.
"It is as severe an indictment of a president's record as one can possibly imagine, and it is utterly disqualifying," Biden said Friday as the toll passed nine million.
Trump downplays the virus even as the toll has been accelerating once more, holding a slew of rallies with little social distancing or mask use.
He has repeatedly told supporters that the country is "rounding the curve" on Covid infections.
But Americans, wary of crowded polling booths on Election Day as the virus spreads, are voting early in record numbers.