-- More than three years of conflict, displacement
and hunger in South Sudan have forced many communities in the
war-torn country to resort to extreme coping methods such as
eating tree leaves, roots and wild fruits to survive starvation.
In a bright sunny day in Thonyor, Leer
County in South Sudan’s former Unity State, Mary Nyarach, a
mother of five has been queuing for nearly three hours at a seed
distribution center where she is waiting to receive seeds and
farm tools to enable her to plan for the next planting season.
Nyarach hopes to grow fast-growing
vegetables such as okra and pumpkins to allow her to take a
break from eating tree leafs, water lilies, papyrus roots and
wild fruits that she has been surviving on for the past four
Nyarach is among thousands of people
facing starvation in northern South Sudan where a localized
famine was declared in February by the government and the UN.
She told Xinhua during a visit on
Tuesday that together with her three young children had left the
swamps in March after spending nearly four months there
following an armed raid in her village of Dindin in December
“We depend on the wild fruits and
leaves and sometimes if humanitarian agencies bring us food,
we combine it with leaves. But if the little food assistance
fails or delays, we survive on wild fruits and leafs as an
alternative,” Nyarach said.
Nyarach said she would return to her
village if their stability and peace, adding that peace will be
the only thing to enable her family to restore their lost
“This year if there is calmness and
stability, we can go back to our villages then we start
cultivating. This relief that is coming to our area, how
long will it continue coming? We need peace and stability to
go back so that we go and start over again,” she said.
Another 45-year old Nyageng Nyuen also
shares Nyarach’s sentiments of eating leaves and wild fruits to
sustain their lives.
She said that life has become worse
since renewed fighting erupted in Juba and spread across the
East African nation in July 2016.
“We eat water lilies, papyrus and
sometimes we go fishing, which is the only way of surviving
in the swamps,” Nyuen said.
“We have undergone a difficult time
within the three years of fighting. We always run to the
swamps to hide ourselves and children and there we don’t
have shelter and food. We have lost our livestock, houses
and children,” she added.
Nyachuong Khalifa, 28-year-old mother
of five who lost her husband to the civil war in 2016, said her
family lost every possession to gunmen who raided villages of
livestock, women and sometimes food.
“Before the conflict, we had surplus
to eat, to sell and we also have so many livestock to earn a
living. But our cows were all raided in 2014. I don’t have
anything to survive on. This is a situation that we didn’t
expect,” Khalifa said.
“When the gunmen come, they us you to
harvest what is the garden if you fail, they beat you or
even rape you, but for men they are just killed, and that is
how my husband was killed in 2016,” she added.
“But we are not able to farm due to
the conflict. Our husbands who used to dig the dykes to
prevent the floods have been killed or are fighting. No one
can protect us from the floods now,” she said.
South Sudan has been embroiled in more
than three years of conflict that has taken a devastating toll
on the people of South Sudan.
A peace deal signed in August 2015 led
to the formation of a transitional unity government in April,
but was again shattered by fresh violence in July, 2016.
According to UN estimates, the
conflict has displaced 1.5 million into neighboring countries
and another 7.5 million people across the country are in need of
humanitarian assistance and protection.
In February, a localized famine was
declared in parts of the world’s newest country, with some
100,000 people, nearly half of the population, in dire need of
Experts have also warned that the
increase in insecurity, attacks on aid workers and convoys could
increase risks of famine following recent killing of aid workers
and restrictions along relief supplies routes.