In South Sudan, a connection between conflict and hunger

With more food on the planet than ever before, it's difficult to believe that people still go hungry every day. You might assume that natural disasters, drought, or a lack of access to necessary farming equipment are to blame for a lack of food. What may surprise you, though, is that conflict is a leading cause of hunger.

Currently, conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is causing food shortages affecting millions, leaving children most vulnerable. While it is easy to see the role that a natural disaster or drought plays in hunger, the connection between conflict and hunger can be complicated. To make this complex issue easier to understand, World Vision's James Addis outlines some key questions below.

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How bad are food shortages in South Sudan?

The number of people threatened by food shortages has risen to 4.7 million, according to the World Food Program -- half the population of South Sudan. Of these, 1 million people require immediate food aid.

Why are things so bad?

In January, South Sudan shut down its oil production following a dispute with Sudan. The shutdown sparked a series of economic shocks, including rising food and fuel prices and cuts to agriculture, health, and education services. The situation has been made worse by a poor harvest and fighting, which has displaced tens of thousands of people. On top of all this, more than 400,000 refugees from the north have returned to their homeland in South Sudan. Most of these people lack food and other essential supplies.

What is the fighting about?

World Vision staff inspect food set to be distributed due to the emerging food crisis in the country. (Photo: Geoffrey Kalebbo Denye/World Vision)

Ever since South Sudan separated from Sudan in July last year and became an independent nation, the two countries have been squabbling over valuable oil reserves in the border regions. This has provoked skirmishes, which have intensified in recent weeks. In addition, South Sudan suffers from internal tribal conflicts that have displaced tens of thousands of people in recent months.

Why did South Sudan shut down its oil production?

South Sudan relies on Sudan's oil pipelines, refineries, and other infrastructure to export its oil. Sudan accused South Sudan of not paying the oil transit fees for the use of its facilities and started seizing South Sudan's oil in lieu of those fees. In response, South Sudan accused Sudan of stealing its oil and halted production.

What is the impact on children?

When food is scarce, children are the most vulnerable to starvation. When fighting rages, children’s schooling is disrupted. Older children risk being abducted and recruited by armed groups. During tribal fighting in South Sudan’s Warrap state in February, children were among those targeted and killed. Moreover, about half the population of the country is composed of children, so they are disproportionally affected.

What does World Vision have to say about the Sudan/South Sudan conflict?

World Vision calls on the governments of both countries to cease fighting, end incursions into rival territory, end support for proxy militia groups, honor a non-aggression agreement signed by the two countries, and continue dialogue to solve the oil disagreement.

What is World Vision doing to help?

World Vision has extensive relief operations in border areas, targeting more than 500,000 people. Activities include:

  • FOOD SECURITY: general food distribution, school meals, and child nutrition programs.
  • WATER AND SANITATION: drilling new borehole wells, distributing water purification tablets, and establishing sanitation facilities.
  • HEALTH: medical screening, immunization, promotion of good hygiene, and promotion of breastfeeding.
  • EMERGENCY SUPPLIES: distributing mosquito nets, blankets, plastic sheeting, soap, and buckets.
  • CHILD PROTECTION: tracing missing children, sensitizing communities to risks faced by children and how they can be mitigated, and establishment of Child-Friendly Spaces.

Read more blog posts about South Sudan's independence and the challenges faced by this region since it became the world's newest country in July 2011. Please pray for children, families, and communities who are suffering at the hands of conflict and hunger.

Make a one-time donation to World Vision's Sudan and South Sudan Relief Fund. Your gift will help World Vision provide food, clean water, healthcare, and other humanitarian assistance in this troubled part of the world.


    Hi Scott. We're sorry that you are frustrated with the limited opportunities for employment/volunteering with World Vision. Our development model seeks to create sustainable communities, so 97% of our staff are actually native to the countries in which they work. We've found that this model is the most effective at helping communities raise themselves up out of poverty. We're very glad that you want to help and encourage you to keep that passion alive. God bless, -Jonathan, WV staff


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