Lise Grande, UN DRSG/RC/HC/UNDP RR, Launch of the African Development Report, Juba, South Sudan

May 22, 2012

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Honourable Minster of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Cooperatives, Betty Achan Ogwaro

Presidential Advisor, Mr. Aggrey Tisa

Professor, Dr. Billy Berto Madison

Members of the Government,

Members of the Academic Community,

Representatives of the international development community,

All protocols observed

On behalf of the United Nations I would like to thank all of you for being here this morning in the world’s newest nation to launch the first Human Development Report for Africa.

This first African Human Development Report is dedicated to food security. For decades, hunger has been the major threat to people’s lives in Africa. Hunger prevents people from living their live in freedom and dignity. Millions of people remain hungry and malnourished in Africa today. More than one in four Africans is undernourished. Last year, a famine raged the horn of Africa affecting almost 10 million people and this year and drought threatens the lives of 13 million people in West Africa.

In South Sudan, this year, 4.7 million people are food insecure. This is more than half of the country’s population. South Sudan faces a cereal deficit of 470,000 metric tonnes. This is more than twice the deficit in 2011. Food prices are rising. Cereals prices have increased by 100-200% in most markets. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, the price of sorghum nearly doubled in just two weeks. We have declared a Level 3 emergency in South Sudan, which places this operation among the UN’s highest global priorities. 

Food insecurity can be devastating for families, especially children.  Hungry children with weakened immune systems die prematurely from treatable diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.  They start school late, learn less and drop out early.  Mothers run a greater risk of dying in childbirth.    In South Sudan, one out of every seven children will die before their fifth birthday. Only 29% of children between the age of 6 and 13 are enrolled in primary school. South Sudan has the highest maternal mortality in the world.

Food insecurity can also be devastating for society increasing mortality, diseases and poor health. Workers are less productive, and as a result have less earning potential.  Food insecurity lowers returns on education. In extreme cases mass hunger is a powder keg that can bring down an entire economy or political system. This is not a conducive environment for development. 

There are two disturbing paradoxes.  Firstly, though the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa, this recent economic progress has not brought food security for the most vulnerable populations still gripped by hunger.  For example, here in South Sudan, we see that despite independence and greater investment from abroad, food insecurity – presently at 4.7 million people – is at its highest level since the CPA was signed in 2006.  Secondly, food insecurity exists despite an abundance of natural resources.  South Sudan has rich soil, a favourable climate and large swathes of land. Yet people are still hungry.

Without food security, sustainable development will be an unattainable goal. Looking at food security from a human development perspective means not simply looking at the availability of food, or the growth of the economy. Human development puts the people at the center of development. Human development is about empowerment: empowering people to make their own choices. Human development is also about resilience, about building people’s capacity to cope with shocks. 

A human development approach to food security provides the best opportunity to secure the livelihoods of Africans for the future. It addresses all the factors that add up to pervasive food insecurity: insufficient access to food, low agricultural productivity, limited government capacity, failing markets and limited infrastructure, malnutrition and poor health.

To addresses these challenges there are 4 things we must do. 

1. Improve agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner that increases food production and generates employment both on and off the farm.

2. Promote good nutritional practices among mothers and children, those most affected by food insecurity.

3. Enhance the resilience of families and communities by implementing social protection programmes.

4. Empower the rural poor, especially women by providing access to information, markets and knowledge in order to unleash their transformative power.

I was pleased to hear that the Government has established a National Food Council. Efforts of the United Nations in South Sudan are also underway to foster an inclusive approach to food security.

Just last week, I had the honor to lead, together with the honourable Minister for Animal Resources and Fishery, Dr. Martin Elia Lumoro, a delegation to a high level IGAD meeting in Djibouti on drought and food security in IGAD countries. We presented South Sudan’s recently developed Country Strategy Framework to break the cycle of food crisis and drought emergencies. This framework has been developed to help build the resilience of households so that they can manage through the lean seasons. It consists of a three tier approach.

1.  A focus on short term food insecurity. WFP has pre-positioned food stocks before the rainy season throughout the country.  We are on target to reach 2.7 million people this year. 

2.  In the medium term, we are promoting recovery strategies. For instance, by providing irrigation equipment to mitigate the impact of drought. 

3.  We are working to build government to address the long term, structural causes of food insecurity. We are building government capacity to develop and implement food security policies and strategies. We are also working with government to ensure that food security is part of the national development debate. 

We are living in a time of austerity. As the UN, we were obliged to re-prioritize our development support to the South Sudan Development Plan. This will enable us to address the most important priorities during a prolonged austerity.  We have sought to safeguard front line service delivery in the areas of health, education, water and sanitation. We will continue to reinforce core governance functions and prevent escalation of violence. We will continue to address food insecurity to help households survive the hunger gap.

Together we can work towards a healthy and resilient South Sudan that empowers people and transforms lives.

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