Photo: Christian Als / Danish Refugee Council

Famine declared in troubled part of South Sudan

Today the United Nations has announced a famine in the northern state of Unity in South Sudan. As many as 100,000 people are affected in the state, which has been heavily affected by fighting since conflict broke out in late 2013. Across the country 4.9 million people are in urgent need of food, warns UN agencies and 250,000 children are already severely malnourished.


The conflict in South Sudan has caused a collapse in the economy, a low production of crops and hindered the delivery of lifesaving aid. More than 3 million people have been displaced.

The number of people dying from hunger and the rates of malnutrition mean that the crisis has now been declared the first famine in any part of the world for six years. At present, the famine is limited to Unity State but UN agencies warn that it could spread if urgent action is not taken.

“Needless to say, when people are dying of hunger the humanitarian situation is beyond critical” says Rickard Hartmann, Country Director for DRC in South Sudan. “Three years of conflict have taken their toll. Many people are fleeing fighting, they have lost their livelihoods and have now exhausted their last resources”.

DRC is supporting conflict-affected populations in South Sudan with camp management, protection, shelter and livelihoods projects.

In 2016 DRC also started food security programming in Unity State to help improve access to food for the most vulnerable people. “With funding from Danida we are supporting several thousand families with seeds, tools and fishing nets, including in locations of Unity now being classified as likely to experience famine,” says Hartmann.

The humanitarian community is working hard to prevent a further escalation of the food crisis – a daunting task considering the scale of the situation. In response, DRC is also planning to further expand its food-security interventions, including through additional funding to the South Sudan mission.   

“Millions of people need assistance” says Hartmann. “The humanitarian agencies need access and sufficient resources if this crisis is to be effectively addressed and further disaster prevented”.