The Baptist Convention of South Sudan provided medical supplies to a government hospital in Kajokeji recently, said Edward Dima, president of the Baptist Convention of South Sudan. (Photo provided by Edward Dima)
Lower rainfall totals, poor harvests, soaring food prices and an economic downturn, coupled with ongoing conflict, have created record levels of food insecurity in South Sudan, according to a U.N. World Food Programme report.
Nearly half of the nation's 11.8 million people are food insecure (49 percent), an 11-point increase from 2014.
In addition, 12 percent of the population is severely food insecure, "doubling the rates of one year ago and a record level for the harvest period since at least 2010."
Food insecurity describes those who are unsure where their next meal will come from, as they lack access to (or the financial means to obtain) safe, nutritious food.
The nation has experienced intermittent conflict for several decades, which has disrupted the economy and negatively impacted food production in regions that have seen the highest levels of fighting.
Since fighting resumed in 2013 - the result of a political power struggle that has divided the nation along ethnic lines - nearly 2 million have become internally displaced persons (IDPs), around 650,000 have fled to neighboring nations as refugees and more than 50,000 have been killed.
Conflict-induced food shortages have been exacerbated by limited rainfall in some regions, which has reduced overall food production and caused prices to dramatically increase.
Edward Dima, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kajokeji, Central Equatoria, and president of the Baptist Convention of South Sudan, told EthicsDaily.com that "the current civil strife ... and unfavorable, unreliable rainfall ... has deterred crop production ... and it has created a deficit of over 381,000 metric tons of food."
"The situation in South Sudan is so alarming and probably 6 million people in South Sudan shall be facing food shortage," he added. "Almost half of the population ... may not know where to get food for the next day."
He continued, "We are experiencing no rain, which tells me that the future is so bleak. In a place called Pibor where we planted a Baptist church, we have over 17,000 people [who] are starving and in a critical situation ... People are in a dire need for food, shelter and medical supplies."
Dima shared that the Baptist Convention of South Sudan provided medical supplies to a government hospital in Kajokeji recently and noted that the Baptist World Alliance had helped the convention to provide relief supplies to IDPs in 2015.
"I pray that God will provide resources to meet these huge needs," he said. "I pray that many Baptist and non-Baptists shall ... support our efforts to reach ... people with relief supplies."
Editor's note: A photo news story featuring photos from South Sudan provided by Dima can be viewed here. A video interview of Dima sharing a history of Baptists in South Sudan can be viewed here.