A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
A year after the fighting started in South Sudan the country remains in a severe food crisis with up to 2.5m people estimated to be at risk of hunger if the conflict continues, Oxfam warned today. Since the fighting started on 15 December 2013, 1.9 million people have been forced to leave their homes, including 479,000 who have fled to neighboring countries. Even during the harvest season, around 1.5 million people were suffering food insecurity. A further 1 million people could join their ranks by March 2015 if fighting scales-up soon.
Oxfam has helped over 360,000 people in South Sudan, including giving clean water and sanitation to 79,000 people and helping displaced people with their livelihoods.
Zlatko Gegic, country director for Oxfam in South Sudan said:
“The situation in South Sudan is on a knife-edge. The relative peace of the rainy season is over, and fighting could escalate at any time, forcing tens of thousands of people to leave their homes for their own safety. Harvesting and transporting food will become impossible, and millions of people will go hungry. We have to act now to avert it.
“The key thing we need to see is an immediate ceasefire. We appeal to both sides in the conflict to get around the negotiating table and hammer out a durable political solution. That’s the best solution for stopping the hunger in South Sudan.”
Gegic said that the aid effort so far had kept people alive, but that donors needed to continue funding programs and to put pressure on the combatants to let aid workers access the worst-hit areas.
He said: “Oxfam is there on the ground - we’ve helped over 360,000 people over the last year. Aid has made the difference between life and death for many South Sudanese people. But we need to prepare for a situation in which 2.5 million people could be going hungry. The sooner we start on this, the more effective we’ll be. But we also need the combatants in South Sudan to give us access to everyone who needs help.”