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The operational and technological complexities of distributing food to nutritionally vulnerable civilians in conflict-induced humanitarian crises are most clearly apparent in South Sudan, and particularly in the ongoing famine declared in February 2017 (WFP 31 December 2016). Instability, conflict, and violence pose significant risks to humanitarian and relief organizations, the food supplies they procure, and prospects for the rehabilitation of domestic agriculture and local crops (Quinn 2010). This article will examine why organizations such as the Red Cross, US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Food Programme (WFP) have been stymied in the delivery of food to hungry populations in South Sudan despite advancements in both cost- and nutritionally-effective food assistance technology such as cash and voucher (CV) programs. Obstruction of relief activities by the government and violent retaliation against humanitarian workers by opposition forces ultimately inhibit food delivery in the context of a fatal famine.

In the wake of a two-year drought throughout East Africa, an estimated 5.5 million South Sudanese people, approximately 47% of the country’s population, will experience acute food insecurity, starvation, and high levels of excess mortality through the peak lean season in July 2017 (European Commission 2017). On February 20, 2017, the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) of the Famine Early Warning System declared a famine (Phase 5) in two of South Sudan’s counties, the first declaration of its kind since Somalia’s 2011 famine (USAID 2017). The IPC projects food insecurity will worsen by May 2017 throughout the country, as shown in Figure I (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, 2017).

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