Famine is the most offensive F-word in the world’s vocabulary in 2021 - Sally Foster-Fulton

There is an f-word that I feel uneasy with. It feels like a word that should have no place in our vocabulary in 2021: famine. And yet it’s a word being used by Christian Aid and other International Non-Governmental Organisations, and I fear we will hear it many more times in the months ahead. 41 million people globally are ‘teetering on the very edge of famine’ according to the United Nations. The coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed and bombarded us on every level over the past 18 months. And now, alongside climate change and conflict, it is pushing many more people towards starvation.

Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Christian Aid Scotland

In South Sudan, one of the countries deemed to be worst affected currently, the figures speak for themselves. Last month South Sudan marked 10 years of independence. But there was little reason for celebration. In the world’s newest country, conflict rumbles on and farmlands are still submerged under flooding from 2020 (the worst flooding the country has seen in many years). Crops have been destroyed and people are telling us they do not know how or what they will feed their families.

Almost two-thirds of the population of South Sudan (60%) is struggling to find enough food. More than 80% are living in extreme poverty. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification system, people living in six of South Sudan’s 10 states are facing starvation, death and destitution. People in 34 counties in the country are acutely malnourished and dying. In total more than seven million people are on the brink of famine.

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James Wani is Christian Aid’s Country Director in South Sudan, based in the capital Juba.

Asunta Nyanut Deng holding her grandchild

“We are very concerned about the very high numbers of people struggling to get enough food to eat, especially the most vulnerable: malnourished children and pregnant women and also women with young babies who are breastfeeding. A combination of factors including extreme weather, conflict, locusts and Covid-19 have joined forces to deliver devastation and fuel this food crisis. The combined result is the destruction of crops, livelihoods, houses and dwellings. Food prices have soared. I am gravely concerned about the scale of hunger we are witnessing.”

Christian Aid has been working globally with vulnerable communities for more than 75 years. We have worked with local partner organisations in Sudan and present-day South Sudan since the 1970s. What we are seeing now are catastrophic levels of hunger and this is a race against time.

People like Asunta Nyanut Deng (pictured holding her grandchild) whose farm has flooded, has witnessed her crops and home being destroyed by heavy rains. Every day she struggles to find enough food to eat. The country is now entering its ‘rainy season’ and yet the water covering her land is from last year, water that has never receded. She told us she is aware of coronavirus but at the forefront of her mind is having enough food to eat. There is a tangible sense from everything she says that life is extremely hard.

It is important to emphasise that famine does not happen overnight and some of the drivers are beyond our sphere of influence. But others such as climate change impacts and access to vaccines are not and beg serious questions of our own decision-makers in terms of the adequacy of their responses. However, what we can all do is act quickly, motivated by justice driven compassion, for the sake of our global neighbours.

Your support will provide water hygiene kits for clean drinking water, seeds and tools for households to grow vegetables and food for families facing starvation. Your donation will save lives.

Around the world, more than 41 million people in 43 countries are on the brink of famine. Donations to Christian Aid’s Global Hunger Appeal can be made via our website: www.christianaid.org.uk

Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Christian Aid Scotland


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