Syllabus link: One case study of the issues affecting a famine-stricken country or area.
Case Study: South Sudan
List as many causes as you can from the video below (and the link).
Remember in Geography these can always be classified into social, economic, political and environmental.
South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, falling into a civil war in 2013.The most immediate cause included the tactics used by the South Sudan government and its principal rebel opponent in fighting the current civil war.
Both the government and rebel forces attack civilian targets much more frequently than they attack each other. Both groups have attacked the civilian populations deemed to be unsupportive. They have raided cattle in areas where cows represent the savings and means of commercial exchange. Massive cattle raids result in complete impoverishment of entire communities and unleash cycles of revenge attacks that poison relations between neighbours and entire ethnic groups. Both crops, food stocks (depleted) and market places (including infrastructure) have been destroyed in the civil war.
The government has also concentrated recent attacks on areas where agricultural production traditionally fed large parts of South Sudan (using food as a weapon), not only resulting in massive human displacement (often hiding in marshlands to escape conflict) but also devastating local grain production, which leads to hyperinflation in food prices.
However, many chose to leave their homes and properties (some seeking refuge in neighbouring countries such as Uganda to the south), hence less food has been produced.
Government and humanitarian aid
Destroying the means of food production is only one part of the equation that causes famine. The South Sudan government has not allowed humanitarian organisations full access to the victims of the attacks (in an attempt to starve the rebels), which include approximately 3 million people who were rendered homeless. With full access it is believed aid agencies would have been able to prevent a famine from occurring.
Instead, the government obstructed access by these organisations in a variety of ways, as have the rebels, thus resulting in huge pockets of populations — including tens of thousands of children — who have received little to no assistance at the height of their need.
Corruption has also been a feature of the Sudanese government failing to invest adequately in agriculture.
Collapsing economy: Food shortages have resulted in hyperinflation. Inflation reduces access to food for the poorest communities.
One of the key reasons for the collapse in the economy was due to the collapse in the price of oil (and reduction in production) which South Sudan exports, lowering government revenue, (reducing money the government has to invest in agriculture). Insecurity disrupted markets, leading to higher food prices. Sacks of staple foods such as sorghum, maize and wheat flour increased by up to 280 percent compared to 2016 prices (up 280 percent in 2017 from 2016).
Some areas lack markets and therefore don’t experience trade (usually associated in areas based on subsistence agriculture). Many people lost their livestock (due to the civil war) which is integral to their livelihood.
Low agricultural production
South Sudan is known to have rich and arable soil that is incredibly well suited to farming (has the potential to become an important agricultural country). More than 70 percent of the nation’s total land area is suitable for crop production. Less than 4 percent of the total land area is currently cultivated. Increasing the total land cultivated by only 6 percent would more than double the country’s value of total agriculture production from $808 million to $2 billion.
South Sudan has failed to prioritise infrastructure improvements (this includes paved roads and storage) in targeted areas with high agricultural potential. In addition it has had to deal with livestock diseases, lack of tools and machinery and weak institutions. As a result, the country’s agricultural production is far from sufficient to feed the growing population, including the many internally displaced people (IDPs) forced from their homes by armed conflict and violence in recent years.
People in the south could not cultivate, resulting in a lack of harvest and crop failure. In 2016/2017 a drought (linked to El Nino) spread across the Horn of Africa and South Sudan. The drought and civil war put millions of people in danger of starvation. Those who face food insecurity often increases during the lean season (lacking rainfall May-July).
Factors affecting the severity of famine include:
- Governance (clear in the case of South Sudan)
- Access to international aid
- The power of the media
The power of the media:
The media have a huge impact both on society and public opinion. As the media puts poverty and hunger-related news at the top of their agenda and share them with the masses, they inevitably become more aware of the issue and as a result.
Apart from that, the media by making the masses become much more aware of the starving people in different corners of the world play a key role in stimulating the non-governmental organisations (aid organisations) to get engaged in combating this problem worldwide. It could be said that media acts like a driving force in promoting global awareness in world-wide problems such as global hunger.
The United Nations or other international institutions can produce a variety of reports, but only when the images of starving people are televised or put on the front page of newspapers politicians take action.
It is obvious that there is a correlation between mass media coverage and emergency assistance. On the other hand, global hunger is sometimes used as a tool by rent-seeking media organisations.
In short, it can be said that, the media is one of the most significant actors in shaping the public agenda can play a major role in combating global problems such as global hunger.
The South Sudan famine was covered by various newspapers (including the Guardian) and traditional TV broadcasting networks (BBC, CNN etc) raising awareness, reducing the impacts of the famine.
South Sudan received international aid from a number of NGOs including Oxfam. Emergency food aid was delivered from the air in order to reach those in conflict zones or areas that were inaccessible (UK). China provided food aid in the form of staple food, while the EU committed 82 million Euro. In June 2017, it was announced that South Sudan was no longer facing a famine due to the increase in international aid it had received.