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South Sudan: Kiir vows to fight famine, says 2017 is 'year of peace and prosperity'

South Sudan: Kiir vows to fight famine, says 2017 is 'year of peace and prosperity'

South Sudan

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has addressed the embattled country 24 hours after his government declared famine in some parts of Africa’s youngest nation.

Kiir appeared in parliament where he addressed a series of issues ranging from the famine, security, the economy and the issue of national dialogue.

‘‘The government is aware of the failure of crops last year in the region and so steps are being taken to mitigate the potential famine in that area.

This famine is man-made. WFP and the entire humanitarian community have been trying with all our might to avoid this catastrophe, mounting a humanitarian response of a scale that quite frankly would have seemed impossible three years ago.

“Towards this end, the government will increase the supply of basic food commodities in the area with the provision for subsidised prices,” Kiir said in the televised address.

Prolonged conflict in the country has prevented many farmers from harvesting their crops while hyperinflation which soared to over 800 percent in 2015, has made the price of imported food beyond the reach of many.

Around 4.9 million people over 40 percent of South Sudan’s population are in need of urgent food and nutrition, while 5.5 million others are expected to be severely food insecure and at risk of death in the coming months, the UN agencies added.

The government admits that the cause of the famine was principally as a result of the ongoing civil war which led to an entrenched economic crisis that has devastated the country. It is estimated that nearly 100,000 people are facing starvation and more than a million others are on the brink of famine.

The oil-rich east African country has been mired in conflict since 2013 when President Salva Kiir fired his then deputy, rebel leader Riek Machar.

Other issues he touched on were:

  • That a National Dialogue team will be sworn in next month without fail.
  • The government will demilitarize the capital Juba and hand it over to the police.
  • Aid agencies were going to be given unimpeded access to areas hard hit by the famine.
  • He said instructions had been given for the resumption of oil in the former Unity State.
  • That government will use ‘‘extreme measures to neutralize’‘ anti-peace elements.
  • The government was prepared to improve relations with the United States administration.

Famine is currently affecting parts of Unity State in the northern-central part of the country. A formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger. The situation is the worst hunger catastrophe since fighting erupted more than three years ago.

UN’s World Food Programme(WFP) says the catastrophe is man-made.

“This famine is man-made. WFP and the entire humanitarian community have been trying with all our might to avoid this catastrophe, mounting a humanitarian response of a scale that quite frankly would have seemed impossible three years ago,” said WFP country director, Joyce Luma.

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