South Sudan

No crop seed delivery for South Sudan farmers in Unity state could mean food shortages later this year

@ICRC/Pawel Krzysiek

Civilians, including farmers, are fleeing the fighting in Unity state in the north of South Sudan. If farmers cannot plant, it could mean food shortages later this year, says the Food and Agriculture Organization.

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“It’s very critical right now, and if we don’t manage to give crop seeds to the farmers, the food insecurity may be worse in the coming months,” says Karim Bah, the Emergency Response Manager for the F.A.O. in South Sudan .

The Food and Agricultural Organization is trying to help farmers by ramping up their airlifts to reach the farmers. They are delivering to more than 175,000 food-insecure farming families in the Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Unity states by the end of the month.

“We were providing crop seeds now so that the beneficiaries could plant it. Unfortunately because of the insecurity, the farmers are in hiding, so they will not be able to plant,” says Bah.

Bah says that the F.A.O. and other aid workers found out the hard way last year when civilians who tried to get the desperately-needed food aid were targeted by gunmen on the ground, so they are trying to reach the people without putting them in danger.

“We are looking at various options. If they will not be able to plant, we will try to support them with other means, like fishing kits, which will allow them to fish, or provide them with vegetables, which can be planted at any time of the year, more or less.”

He says that the F.A.O. is still hoping to deliver crop seeds so that they will have a harvest towards the end of the year.

And as the security deteriorates, aid agencies have pulled out of the area.

In the interim, World Vision, Médicins sans Frontiers and other aid agencies have had to pull out of Unity state because of the ongoing violence, rapes and murders.

The International Committee of the Red Cross still has a base in Leer, in southern Unity state, but it is very difficult to operate there as the fighting is moving toward the area, says Pawel Krzysiek, the spokesman for ICRC in Juba.

“The fighting started over the weekend in the northern part of the state, and today we’ve been receiving reports about escalating hostilities in the southern part. We are very concerned about this situation because the fighting is approaching Leer, where the ICRC has its base.”

The ICRC has had an office there since the beginning of the civil war in December 2013, running one on the largest food operations of the ICRC in the world and delivering food for 120,000 people.

“Now these regular operations are already on hold,” he adds.

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