The United Nations did some extremely rare in February: agencies declared that a famine was ongoing in parts of South Sudan. More than 100,000 people are affected by this famine and childhood mortality rates are already surging there.
On the line with me to discuss why this famine declaration was made, what is means on the ground for the people affected by it and the humanitarian agencies trying to contain the damage is Steve Taravella, senior spokesperson for the World Food Program in Washington. And as Steve describes “famine” is actually a technical term — it does not mean just having no food. Rather it is a threshold that is taken from a number of indicators that taken together mean that people are dying from starvation in extreme numbers.
This famine declaration comes as the UN is also fighting intense food security crises in Yemen, Somalia and parts of Northern Nigeria. And Steve describes how this is really an unprecedented moment for relief organizations like his.