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Chinese assistance alleviating hunger in South Sudan as government promotes farming

By South Sudan journalist Moses Gum, first published on China Daily Africa under the title “Aid buys time in S.Sudan as government pushes farming”. 

Zhang Yi (L), Economic and Commercial Counselor at the Chinese Embassy in South Sudan, hands over some of the emergency food aid to Martha Nyamal (2nd R), Chairperson of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRS), in Juba, capital of South Sudan, on 11 September 2017. (Xinhua/Gale Julius)

China’s humanitarian assistance is helping alleviate starvation in South Sudan as the government promotes farming to strengthen food security.

China has been providing regular as well as emergency humanitarian assistance to the young nation since December 2013.

While making a donation of rice in May, He Xiangdong, China’s ambassador to the country, said the donation was “given in kind and good heart” and was part of China’s efforts to help South Sudan alleviate starvation. China donated 2,048 metric tons of rice, part of 8,800 tons pledges by the country last year.

In February, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme warned that more than 7 million people in South Sudan could face severe food insecurity if sustained humanitarian assistance and access was not forthcoming.

China’s donation has helped families that have been displaced by the civil war that erupted in 2013.

“Before the conflict, life was good. But currently, this is not possible,” says Dora Yangi, a mother of six children who comes from Amadi state and is among those displaced. The 42-year-old mother thanks China for supporting her family with food and sleeping materials.

The degree of malnutrition is dire in other communities across South Sudan because war has discouraged farming and disrupted lives. Lack of security in remote areas has constrained aid agencies’ efforts to deliver food relief.

Mary Adit, 23, from Wau state, says she is grateful to China for donating sleeping tents and mosquito nets. “I am extremely happy for receiving rice and sleeping tents. … This rice helps in sustaining us, and we are able to protect ourselves from mosquitoes.”

According to the World Consortium, a nonprofit organization, malaria is the leading cause of illness and death in children under 5 years old in South Sudan. Due to poor infrastructure and poor nutrition, the infant mortality rate is one of the highest at 102 per 1,000 live births, while the under-5 mortality rate is 250 per 1,000 live births.

Adit says she hopes South Sudan will maintain ties with China because of such efforts to save lives.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the government of South Sudan are focusing on strengthening food security by improving livelihoods. The not-for-profit organization has already begun providing kits for fishing and for growing crops and vegetables to more than 4.2 million people, many of them in remote or conflict-affected areas, to help them catch or grow their own food.

According to the World Bank, 80 percent of South Sudan is arable land.

To reduce and minimize the risk of famine, the government of South Sudan is encouraging farmers to return to their fields. A campaign launched in April in Yambio, Gbudwe state, has used media to increase awareness of the crucial nature of the planting season and introduced incentives for farmers to increase farming activities.

“It is only through agriculture that we can rise above hunger. Fighting has displaced families, prevented food production and disrupted markets,” says Onyoti Adigo, South Sudan’s minister of agriculture and food security.

The minister says the campaign will be extended to 10 other states to boost agriculture in the country and says peace would enable people to engage in agriculture as the only means of eradicating poverty in the nation.

Pierre Vauthier, the FAO’s country deputy representative, says the organization will continue to support farmers during the agriculture season. “As we launch this campaign, our target is to win a battle of fighting food insecurity. If all of us participate in farming, our agricultural production will increase in the country.”

South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, is a landlocked country in east-central Africa with a population of 12 million.

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