South Sudan faces famine unless the United Nations World Food Programme receives urgent funding to help feed millions of ever-hungrier people there after catastrophic flooding in recent months, WFP said on Thursday in a statement.
Up to 5.5 million South Sudanese are forecast to be going hungry by early 2020, pushing the country and its population towards a precipice as the year ends amid intense political instability, the statement said.
The devastation caused by floods since October following a drought that afflicted parts of the country earlier in the year is likely to drive up the number of people in dire need of humanitarian assistance, the statement added.
"With all the catastrophes around the world, the last thing we need is another,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
“We know the problems that we’ve been having in South Sudan, but the rains and the floods have led to a national disaster and are much worse than anyone could have anticipated.”
Famine is a real prospect in South Sudan unless WFP fails to get the desperately needed funding in the coming weeks and months, Beasley warned.
"We need support, we need help and we need it now,” he said.
Humanitarian assistance is a lifeline in most areas of South Sudan, where close to 1 million people have been directly affected by flooding that destroyed 73,000 metric tons of potential harvests and wiped out tens of thousands of cattle and goats on which people depend for survival, WFP said.
WFP ramped up its assistance to South Sudan this year and provided 4.6 million people with life-saving support but now needs US$270 million for the first half of 2020, the UN agency stated.
WFP needs US$100 million of the requested US$270 million in the next month to buy and pre-position food ahead of the rainy season in May, it underlined.
South Sudan's government declared a state of emergency in late October in Bahr El Ghazal, Greater Upper Nile and Greater Equatoria states due to the flooding, urging international assistance to be stepped up.
Four months of famine in South Sudan in 2017 was ended by a concerted large-scale humanitarian response, but experts say the country’s food security outlook has never been so dire, the statement recalled.