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Hungry South Sudanese ‘eat leaves and seeds to survive’


A malnourished child is fed a special formula by her mother at a regional hospital in Baidoa town, the capital of Bay region of south-western Somalia where severe cases of malnourishment and cholera are reffered by a UNICEF- funded health programme for children and adults displaced by drought on March 15, 2017. The United Nations is warning of an unprecedented global crisis with famine already gripping parts of South Sudan and looming over Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia, threatening the lives of 20 million people. For Somalis, the memory of the 2011 famine which left a quarter of a million people dead is still fresh. TONY KARUMBA / AFP

South Sudanese villagers are eating leaves from trees and precious seed stocks as food runs out in areas where famine has not been declared, a humanitarian aid group said Monday.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said villages outside Aweil Centre County in the north of the country were on the brink of famine, which was declared in February in two counties to the east.

“Eating barely edible wild foods is a coping strategy for communities trying to survive a food crisis,” said NRC’s South Sudan country director Rehana Zawar.

“The bitter leaves eaten by families we spoke to are from the Lalop tree, and have limited nutritional value. When families eat these leaves and little else, malnutrition quickly follows.”

Some 100,000 people are already in a state of famine in the counties of Leer and Mayendit, and aid agencies have warned another one million are at risk in the coming months.

“About 40 per cent of the people in Amothic are eating tree leaves. About half of the village are eating their seed stocks too,” said Deng Yel Piol, 48, the chief of the village in Aweil Centre, cited in the NRC statement.

– ‘Few seeds left to plant’ –
According to the NRC, the consumption of seeds is particularly alarming in the farming community, which will have few to plant in the next growing season.

The county is one of many in the region classified as in a “crisis” or “emergency” phase of hunger, a short way away from famine which implies acute malnutrition in over 30 percent of people, and at least two deaths per 10,000 people every day.

The food crisis is the latest in a vicious cycle of hunger blamed on civil war in South Sudan, from near-famine conditions in 2014 to devastating scenes of starvation in the early 1990s when the country was still battling for independence.

After independence in 2011, fighting turned inwards and a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar plunged the country into war in 2013.

Hunger has sent over 60,000 from the northern region fleeing into Sudan in the first three months of 2017, according to the UN refugee agency.

This has compounded a humanitarian crisis caused by fighting, which has thousands fleeing every day into Uganda — now the site of the world’s largest refugee camp — and Ethiopia.

Over 1.7 million have fled the country and another 1.9 million are internally displaced.

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  • Ojiyovwi

    Somebody should send these busy-bodies ‘NGOs’ packing out of Africa. My daughter here in the UK is a vegetarian and she’s as healthy at 28 as any other. It is perfectly ok to feed on leaves and seeds. Here, vegetarianism is dietary sophistication, it is hunger when done by Africans? Go home you jobless NGOs.

  • Ojiyovwi

    Grow some more leave and seeds and let the people have some more. I used to grow groundnuts and would have meal of plantain and groundnuts only. I am still here 60+ years later. Go on! grow more!

    • Izeobor

      If the leaves are nutritious, then eat. The leaves mentioned here are not nutritious as I understand. Ojiyovwi might have been privileged to be “out” of the Biafran side of the isle during the Nigerian – Biafran experiment of 1967 – 1970, you would have appreciated the work of NGOs. Most Biafrans resorted to eating some leaves which hitherto were not fed to goats and sheep. Ojiyovwi, could you imagine that Biafrans were buying goat and sheep dungs for food. So, if you don’t have anything to say, don’t foray into it. Hide your tongue in your cheeks.

      • Ojiyovwi

        The role of the NGOs in the ill-fated Biafra was to prolong the suffering and losses we all had. These NGOs were handsomely rewarded and all returned to their homes to their families. I lost many school friends through hunger diseases (including the cholera outbreak) and the bullets we had no means to manufacture. My fellow countryman, you should not be blinded by your personal benefits from NGOs. They are a menace to the welfare of our people. These are career sycophants who are adept at sniffing out misfortunes and then set about making their fortunes on the back of others’ misery which they often help to ferment. Their home nations then come in and sell their killing machines and cycle becomes perpetual. Only he meek are fooled by them. I am old enough to see the effects and influence of these of misery or they will use the ‘foreign aid’ to creatively ferment misery.

  • Izeobor

    Sorry, old age is not synonymous to wisdom. The fundamental question you may ask yourself is “What did my ancestors did to stem the tides?” Or on a personal note, “What have I contributed as a substitute to the ‘ravages’ of the so – called NGOs?” Look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you have done what you could to assuage the suffering of the helpless in your community to stem off the NGOs.