South Sudan: when starvation is weaponized

Two South Sudanese women receiving aid for the Red Cross Two South Sudanese women receiving aid for the Red Cross Simon Little/ICRC

06 October 2020

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has denounced the political ends behind the famine afflicting South Sudan

A report recently published by the OHCHR shows that more than half of the Sudanese population (7.5 million people), after five years of civil war following independence in 2011 and a failed transitional phase, is experiencing very high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. The situation is even more dramatic given that the government, in addition to showing no interest in maintaining the peace agreement, has used famine as a retaliatory measure for years, in the regions where non-aligned communities reside.

The OHCHR Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan has highlighted not only how the government has restricted access to food as a form of collective punishment but has also ordered its commanders to instruct the army to pillage essential items from the local population. In the central-eastern Jonglei region alone, attacks on farmland and the theft of livestock have resulted in more than 1.4 million people, including 350,000 children, facing severe food insecurity. These practices, combined with the destruction of property, violence, rape and murder, make the government potentially guilty of crimes against humanity.

Although the World Food Program is extremely active in South Sudan, the arrival of the pandemic combined with recent floods has further increased the mortality rate generated by this famine. With a country increasingly divided by hostilities, the chances for genuine implementation of the peace agreement and the end of the current humanitarian crisis are thus slim.


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Author: Matteo Consiglio; Editor: Margherita Curti

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