JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudan no longer has areas in famine, but almost 2 million people are on the brink of starvation and an estimated 6 million people — half the population — will face extreme food insecurity between June and July, according to reports by the government and the U.N. released Wednesday.
The situation remains critical, according to reports by South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics and the U.N.’s updated food and security analysis.
“People are in a catastrophic situation,” said Serge Tissot, of the Food and Agricultural Organization.
In February, South Sudan declared two counties in Unity State to be in famine. Although those areas are still in critical condition, early detection and a rapid collective response succeeded in pulling them out of famine, a Phase 5 classification, said the World Food Program.
The U.N warns that South Sudan’s crisis is worsening and just because the label of famine has been removed, doesn’t mean the situation has actually improved.
“Even though we’ve taken it (famine) off the table, we have more people in Phase 4 than ever before,” said Joyce Luma, WFP’s country director. “If we don’t assist this population, 1.7 million people will soon be in famine.”
An estimated 45,000 people still face starvation in Leer, Koch and Mayendit counties with additional areas across the country having deteriorated as well.
In former Jonglei State, an area that previously had one of the lowest levels of acute malnutrition, roughly 20,000 people are experiencing catastrophic food insecurity.
At a recent food distribution in the town of Old Fangak in Greater Jonglei, 10,000 people came to register for a WFP food drop and 30,000 more are expected to come within the week.
“All I eat are vegetables and leaves,” said Nyatang Toy, as she waited in line to receive her ration cards last week.
The skinny, 7-year-old walked for three hours from her village in order to collect food for her parents and five siblings who were too weak to come with her, she said.
“How can we be at this stage where people are starving and we’re dropping bags of food from the air?” Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of International Development, told the Associated Press during a trip last week to the area.