Juba, South Sudan, June 02, 2021 – The United Kingdom (UK) has sparked shock after slashing 30 percent of aid to South Sudan amid a worsening humanitarian crisis characterized by severe famine.
The UK announced in late May that it was cutting aid spending overseas in an amount worth $4.8 billion. The decision sparked outrage in South Sudan where the UK is the second-largest donor country.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Peter Mayen Majongdit expressed dismay over the decision by the UK government to suspend aid in time it is needed most calling it inhumane.
“We look at it so unfriendly and so inhuman to cut aid at this particular time. It is the time when we need the world’s attention like never before,” Mayen was quoted by Sky News to have said.
Mayen, who said he was notified of the aid cuts in a letter dated 27 April, questioned the state diplomatic relations between the UK and South Sudan. No reasons for halting aid were highlighted in the letter.
“We asked, what went wrong in our relationship with the British Government? We felt it was time to double their efforts,” Mayen lamented.
According to multiple projections by the World Food Programme of the United Nations, more than half of 13 million populations in South Sudan are food insecure and are on the brink of famine.
This phenomenon has been compounded by other humanitarian agencies like the World Food Programme cutting emergency food rations as donors’ budgets shrink in a country where attacks against aid workers remained persistent.
“Where we are trying to avert a famine, we have had to prioritize and in other areas where people are somewhat better off we have had to reduce their rations,” Mathew Hollingworth, the WFP Country Director for South Sudan said.
Hollingworth added that the WFP was taking from the hungry to give to the starving, a decision he said was never easy to take except for the situation on the ground.
Meanwhile, the South Sudan government has been criticized for being entirely reliant on international aid agencies and their local partners to provide food and basic government services ten years since the country gained independence.
South Sudan has received billions of dollars from the international community to curb complex humanitarian catastrophes. According to Sky News, discussions on aid cuts are not welcomed and a sizeable number of aid recipients have been warned against any interaction with the media.
In an email sent to the news organization, the British Embassy asked aid partners to refer any requests for interviews to a person whose name was withheld to inform the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office accordingly.
British government embarrassed
“There is only one possible way to interpret this,” a director of one aid organization in Juba said. “The UK is embarrassed by the cuts and would prefer people not to know the details.”
Under the Humanitarian Assistance and Resilience in South Sudan, an initiative undertaken by aid agencies, South Sudan could get $146.2 million annually. With the UK and WFP sitting back, that financial support is now indefinitely delayed.
An additional $7.3 million would also be lost under the Health Pooled Fund (HPF) budget, which supporting rudimentary health clinics in eight of the ten states around the country.
In a country where millions of lives are at risk, the UK has taken a decision that calls for other humanitarian agencies to step in to make a difference.
Humanitarian commentators described the move by the UK as “an act of brinkmanship that will win it few friends”.