Hungry families in South Sudan will be able to make ends meet thanks to vegetable-growing kits funded by a donation from Pope Francis.
The kits come as the food security situation is forecast to worsen in coming months, it said.
Around 5,000 families, or more than 30,000 people, in Yei in Central Equatoria have benefited from the recent 25,000 euro contribution from the Pope to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The money is being used to provide the kits and agricultural hand tools in an area where livelihoods such as farming have been wiped out by fighting.
“Before the war, life was good and we could eat sufficiently, now just some little breakfast and dinner. My child still cries that he’s hungry,” said 22-year-old Suzan Night who was among those who received the kits from FAO in Yei. “Onions and tomatoes can be sold at the market which will really help me,” she said.
“These vegetable kits can be the difference between life and death for many people,” said Serge Tissot, FAO’s Representative in South Sudan. “Thanks to Pope Francis’ contribution, more people in Yei will be able to re-start growing their own food to stave off the worst ravages of hunger,” he said.
The kits will provide seven fast-growing vegetable varieties to increase families’ access to nutritious foods and bridge the food gap between the cereal harvests.
“I don’t have money to go buy food in the market so I really need this,” said 30-year-old Candiru Lily. “I had to run for my life from the village and now I am here in Yei, but I don’t have much land. With the seeds that I got today, I will plant just around my home and it will help me a lot.”
FAO estimated 145,000 people are facing emergency levels of food insecurity, which is one step below famine on the internationally-agreed scale of hunger crises. The extent of hunger is repeated many times over in other communities across South Sudan because fighting has destroyed livelihoods and constrained aid agencies’ access, and because hyperinflation has put food out of reach for many.
“We are so grateful,” said Jeremiah Taban, pastor at Yei’s Episcopal Church. “People in South Sudan are really suffering and are crying for peace. If Pope Francis could see us now he would feel sorry because no human beings should live like this”.
Across South Sudan, the number of people experiencing severe food insecurity is estimated at 4.8 million.
The food security situation is projected to deteriorate at the start of 2018 and the ‘hungry season’ – when households typically run out of food before the next harvest – is forecast to start three months earlier than usual.
FAO has provided fishing, crop- and vegetable-growing kits to more than 4.2 million people, many in difficult to reach or conflict-affected areas, to support them to grow or catch their own food. FAO has also vaccinated and treated more than 4.8 million livestock, to protect these livelihood assets for vulnerable families.