On World Food Day, Government and United Nations call for more sustainable agri-food systems in South Sudan
15 October 2021, Juba - The United Nations is calling for action across all sectors to support the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) join the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in celebrating World Food Day to empower women to contribute to achieving the sustainable transformation of South Sudan’s food systems and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.
World Food Day is commemorated in Malakal this year under the theme ‘Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life'. This calls for collective action to ensure sufficient, nutritious, and safe food is available at an affordable price to everyone, and nobody is hungry or suffers from any form of malnutrition. This goal can be achieved through a systemic approach, by working hand in hand with producers, distributors and consumers, together with the government, private sector, academia, non-governmental organizations, the UN and civil society.
“To achieve this transformation, we need to change policies, mindsets, behaviours and business models,” said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan. “Our efforts in reducing the food gap and malnutrition are some of FAO’s interventions aimed at building a better South Sudan leaving no one behind.”
The “agri-food system” covers the journey of food from farm to table – from when it is planted, grown, harvested, processed, packaged, transported, distributed, traded, bought, prepared, eaten and disposed of. Everyone has a role to play in this process. The food we choose to consume and the way we produce, prepare, cook and store it make us all an integral part to how an agri-food system works.
In the past few months, South Sudan has undertaken a major assessment of its food system within the framework of the National Food Systems dialogue ahead of the global UN Food Systems Summit; the findings will feed into future food systems policies, legislation and investments in the country.
Today food insecurity in South Sudan is at its highest levels since South Sudan gained independence ten years ago. Sixty percent of the population faces severe and acute food insecurity, with families unable to feed themselves because of the combined effects of conflict, displacement, massive flooding and economic hardships, made worse by the COVID19 pandemic. This is further compounded by climate change which has already severely impacted the livelihoods of South Sudanese. The implications of climate change on food security and nutrition are of significant concern.
FAO continues to prioritize assisting communities to increase agricultural production and preserve their livelihoods in a way that fosters peaceful co-existence. FAO is supporting around 4 million people with emergency livelihood support, including vaccination and treatment of nearly 11 million heads of livestock belonging to over 500 000 households. Additionally, FAO supported 99 000 people with capacity-building activities, including training and the establishment of demonstration plots. However, due to insufficient funding this year, FAO was unable to support a further 460 000 food-insecure households (2.7 million people).
“Food insecurity is one of the major causes of the high prevalence of various forms of malnutrition affecting women and young children in South Sudan,” said Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan. “UNICEF is working with partners to prevent malnutrition by promoting breastfeeding of infants, and by ensuring optimum use of available food by teaching mothers to adopt improved feeding habits to prevent malnutrition and by providing therapeutic foods to treat malnutrition among children when prevention fails.”
UNICEF works with the Ministry of Health and 38 non-governmental organizations to prevent and treat severe acute malnutrition, provide advice on correct feeding behaviours, and medicines, and therapeutic foods through 1 145 outpatient nutrition centers. Additionally, 88 UNICEF-supported stabilization centers treat severely malnourished children with medical complications with medical care, medicines, and therapeutic food. Further, UNICEF supports a biannual Vitamin A supplementation (2.5 million children under-5) and biannual treatment of worm infestation (2.3 million children). UNICEF trains parents at the household level to screen their children for malnutrition and supports 8,000 Community Nutrition Volunteers and 4,550 Mother to Mother Support Groups to promote adequate nutrition practices nationwide.
WFP is providing humanitarian food and nutrition assistance to millions of people in South Sudan to meet their urgent food needs, help them maintain their livelihoods, well-being and productive capacity. WFP supports local production and markets in the form of cash transfers, through local purchases and through technical assistance to smallholder farmers. Further, to strengthen resilience and self-reliance within communities, WFP supports the building and maintenance of community assets and infrastructures such as feeder roads and aggregation centers, improving farm-to-market access for communities in rural areas.
“Restoring, strengthening and transforming the food system in South Sudan is more urgent than ever. WFP has embraced this call for action to work with all stakeholders to ensure that every family and every community in South Sudan has access to nutritious food in sufficient quantities to lead productive lives. Through its food and nutrition assistance programmes, WFP aims to tackle hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity from all angles to enable the people of South Sudan to become more self-reliant,” said Adeyinka Badejo, acting Country Director for the World Food Programme in South Sudan.
World Food Day, celebrated this year on 15 October, marks the anniversary of the founding of FAO on 16 October 1945. The main objective of the day is to heighten public awareness of long-term global food challenges and to develop further national and international solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work in South Sudan visit: www.unicef.org/southsudan