“If I did not get registered for this food, my children would have died of hunger.” This is the stark reality that Nyarwot Bim Chan is facing in South Sudan today. A mother of five at 28, Chan’s options to provide for her family are devastatingly limited.
Near-constant conflict across the country for three decades has had a drastic effect on the South Sudanese people: 18% are internally displaced, and 63% don’t have sufficient and safe access to food.
Tadeo Santonino, a program officer for Mennonite Central Committee in South Sudan, says the COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse.
“On top of the higher costs we saw because of the pandemic, South Sudan depends entirely on oil exports for revenue, and oil production was severely impacted by restrictions,” Santonino said. “The impacted production led to reduced revenue for the government workers, which meant there was less capacity for the government to provide services of all kinds, including agricultural support.”
But thanks to the support of MCC donors, Chan and her family are not entirely without hope. An MCC partner, South Sudanese Development and Relief Agency, is distributing food rations to hundreds of the most vulnerable households, including Chan’s in the Rubkona camp for internally displaced people.
Chan has received monthly packages of sorghum, beans, salt and cooking oil since 2020. She says it has kept her family alive.
“The food I receive takes us 22 days to get through,” she said. “I cover the remaining days by buying food with my earnings from selling water and juice.”
Floods have complicated the food supply problems. Over the last three years, extreme flooding has wreaked havoc on what crops the people of Rubkona and millions of others have attempted to plant. The floods have blocked or entirely washed away roads for delivering food or relief.
“Just finding space to do the distribution is very challenging because the few places that aren’t flooded are already full of people,” Santonino said.