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The suffering South Sudan

The United Nations has formally declared that a state of famine exists in this East African nation, with 100,000 people immediately facing starvation. Pope Francis has appealed for the hard-hit people of South Sudan, urging the international community to provide food aid.

"Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” said Food and Agriculture Organization representative in South Sudan, Serge Tissot. These predominately farming people have lost livestock, sold farming tools and eaten their stock of planting seeds. They have nothing left to live on.

And as things stand now, this monumental human crisis will get worse. The U.N. warns: “The total number of food insecure people is expected to rise to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the severity and spread of the food crisis.”

And, according to U.N. Children’s Fund representative in South Sudan, Jeremy Hopkins, “more than one million children are currently estimated to be acutely malnourished across South Sudan; over a quarter of a million children are already severely malnourished. If we do not reach these children with urgent aid, many of them will die.”

Civil war

South Sudan, just over five years old, has been struggling to survive since its birth. Not only is it one of the very poorest countries on earth, it has also suffered during most of its short life from an ongoing civil war.

Recently, the Catholic Bishops of South Sudan issued a pastoral message to their suffering brothers and sisters, saying: “Our country is not at peace. People live in fear. The civil war … continues. Despite our calls to all parties, factions and individuals to stop the war, nevertheless, killing, raping, looting, displacement, attacks on churches and destruction of property continue all over the country. … There is a general lack of respect for human life.”

The South Sudanese Bishops then note that, while poor rains have affected parts of the country, the famine is man-made. And, with deep insight, they say: “Hunger, in turn, creates insecurity in a vicious circle in which the hungry man, especially if he has a gun, may resort to looting to feed himself and his family.”

Emergency fund

President Trump wants to increase already astronomically high military spending by $54 billion while making deep cuts in poverty-focused foreign aid, which is a tiny portion of the U.S. budget – less than one percent.

It is very important that U.S. senators and congressmen provide supplemental emergency funding now for the suffering people of South Sudan. And to pass a 2018 federal budget that significantly increases, not decreases foreign poverty-focused development assistance and emergency aid to poor nations.

Since war is fueling the famine, President Trump should request the U.N. Security Council to impose a total arms embargo on South Sudan and actively attempt to negotiate a permanent cease-fire.

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