By Peter Lokale Nakimangole
JUBA, 02 February 2017 [Gurtong] – The report further says results from the December 2016 Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System (FSNMS) recorded the highest rates of global acute malnutrition (GAM) in Northern Bahr el Ghazal (14.2%), Warrap (13.9%) and Upper Nile (13.6%).
"... However, recent screening data from southern Unity indicates GAM rates in the area ranging between 25% and 42%. The FSNMS also shows increasing levels of malnutrition in all three Equatoria states compared to the same period in previous years."
Contributing factors to the on-going nutrition crisis, according to the children's agency, includes limited food availability due to reduced planting and harvesting, insecurity, the economic crisis and limited humanitarian access.
In Juba, the price of staple commodities such as sorghum and maize has increased by 40 per cent and 61 per cent, respectively, in just the past month, and the overall cost of living has more than tripled in the past year, the report indicated.
"The high cost of living combined with high levels of inflation means many families are exhausting their coping mechanisms. A report from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network released on 25 January gives a very bleak outlook for South Sudan in 2017, with some areas at risk of reaching levels of food insecurity associated with famine."
As a result of seasonal dry weather, low water tables have heightened competing demands for water among humans and animals, and the scarce water sources available are being over-used.
In Eastern Equatoria the regional drought is causing additional strain; populations have started moving in search of water and pasture for animals, and pastoralist communities are crossing the border into Kenya and Uganda.
In Wau, the measles outbreak is showing signs of decline. In the week of 16 to 22 January only 16 cases were reported, compared to 53 cases in the first week of the year. Active transmission of cholera is still ongoing in Bentiu, Leer and Panyijar in Unity as well as in the Juba Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, but the number of cholera cases reported is also declining.
Meanwhile, the UN has reported that humanitarian access remains highly restricted in Greater Equatoria and southern areas of Unity, affecting the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance.
"There has been an escalation of violence in the last two weeks and heavy fighting has been recorded in the Greater Equatoria region and Upper Nile state, severely affecting civilians."
The food insecurity situation in the country is at critical levels. A recent assessment mission to Mayendit, southern Unity found that families are mainly surviving on water lilies, lalok and palm tree seeds. UNICEF continues to implement a nutrition scale-up plan in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) to respond to the situation.
Seasonal dry weather is having a negative impact on water availability. In parts of Eastern Equatoria, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Jonglei, water resources are now severely strained, aggravating the already fragile food security situation in the country.