UN agency boosts efforts to assist rising number of hungry in southern Sudan


2 February - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is ramping up efforts to assist nearly 4.3 million people in southern Sudan where the number of hungry has quadrupled over the past year due to conflict and drought.

“This spike in the number of hungry people in southern Sudan comes just ahead of the rainy season, when roads become blocked and communities are cut off from food assistance,” said Leo van der Velden, WFP's coordinator for southern Sudan.

The agency plans to assist the hungry for two to eight months in 2010, depending on how heavy the rainy season is and the extent of food available in local markets.

It is pre-positioning 50,000 metric tons of sorghum, pulses and vegetable oil to feed the millions who may be cut off when the rains start. It will also support school meal programmes for more than 400,000 schoolchildren and provide food for tens of thousands of conflict-affected families, returnees and refugees.

The annual food needs and livelihood assessment, conducted last November by Sudanese officials along with WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), highlighted the increasing needs of those in southern Sudan.

Since then agencies such as WFP and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) have called for immediate action to address the food shortages and prevent them from escalating into a deeper crisis.

WFP currently faces a $485 million shortfall in funding to provide relief this year to some 11 million people in need of food assistance across all of Sudan, including the south.