WFP warns 1.6 million South Sudanese children to face extreme malnutrition

World Food Programme (WFP)

The World Food Program (WFP) on Monday warned that more than 1.6 million children under the age of five in South Sudan are expected to suffer from extreme malnutrition in the first half of 2024 as the climate crisis tightens its grip on the country.

The WFP, which cited data from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an innovative multi-partner initiative for improving food security and nutrition analysis and decision-making, said flood-affected areas are facing the worst malnutrition due to the spread of waterborne diseases and crowded conditions, aggravated by limited access to food and livelihoods.

Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP representative to South Sudan, warned in a statement issued in the South Sudanese capital of Juba that the flooding crisis is the reality of living on the front line of the climate crisis.

“We are seeing an extremely concerning rise in malnutrition, which is a direct result of living in overcrowded and waterlogged conditions. The spread of waterborne diseases unravels any work humanitarian agencies do in preventing and treating malnutrition, and it is young children who are suffering the impact most severely,” McGroarty said.

The flooding is driven by outflows from Nile River basins, particularly Lake Victoria, which received above-average rainfall in 2023 — meaning there is no relief from the floodwaters in sight.

The IPC showed more than 7 million people will be facing acute food insecurity through the 2024 lean season, with the number of people facing catastrophic hunger (IPC5) expected to rise to 79,000 by April.

This increase, according to the IPC, is largely due to South Sudanese returnees fleeing fighting in Sudan, as they will face increasingly extreme levels of food insecurity.

The WFP said it is grappling with significant funding constraints and the resourcing outlook for 2024 remains grim. “It is expected only one-third of the moderately malnourished children in need of treatment will be reached due to a shortage of funds.”