As We Celebrate America's 245th Birthday, Help South Sudan Survive Their 10th | Opinion

When the United States was 10 years old, back in 1786, the Constitution had yet to be written. The Revolutionary War against Great Britain had only been over a few years, but more warfare and conflict with the British lie in the years ahead.

In western Massachusetts an uprising took place called Shays' Rebellion. What started as protests against economic policies turned violent. The situation escalated to where thousands of men, led by Revolutionary War soldier Daniel Shays, attempted to seize the major federal weapons depot of the U.S. in Springfield. There was fear of an attempt to overthrow the government.

The rebellion was stopped, but the young United States was clearly struggling. Keep in mind that some of the biggest challenges still lie decades away, including the Civil War.

As we celebrate America's Independence Day on July 4, we should remember some of our own perilous history. This can help us better relate to South Sudan's turmoil as it marks 10 years since their independence on July 9, 2011.

South Sudan is also having crisis points in their infancy that threaten their existence. Just two years after South Sudan got their independence from Sudan, conflict broke out between the government and opposition groups. This fighting has worsened the already existing hunger and poverty within the country.

South Sudan charity
Kangach’s son Nhial was treated for acute malnutrition and given WFP’s nutrition supplements which are packed vitamins, minerals and protein. Eulalia Berlanga/WFP

There are now parts of South Sudan in danger of famine, with people starving to death. The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said around 60 percent of South Sudan's population is suffering in hunger. That is over 7 million people who don't know where their next meal is coming from.

All this tragedy is taking place in a country that has some excellent farmland. When you have a continuing cycle of violence it is hard to grow food. When communities are low on food, violence between them escalates over scare resources. South Sudan is seeing a lot of intercommunal violence.

"Violence and conflict, competition among groups over resources such as farmland and water, as well as new protracted displacements due to violence and floods both destroyed assets and eroded communities' resilience," the WFP said. South Sudan is one of four countries most in danger of famine (including Madagascar, Yemen and Ethiopia).

South Sudan needs food to support the Revitalized Peace Agreement which is supposed to provide a roadmap to end violence. Like the young United States, South Sudan still needs to finalize its constitution.

"Drafting a national Constitution is a quintessential act of sovereignty. It expresses the highest aspirations of a nation and its most cherished values," said Nicholas Haysom, who heads the U.N. mission in South Sudan.

But what South Sudan needs most immediately is food and there is lack of funding to provide this critical aid. The lack of donations has led to ration cuts for some displaced victims due to the country's internal conflicts.

The impact of these ration cuts has been devastating as the WFP reports the rations cuts have led to more violence. Supplies were raided recently from a WFP depot that were intended for malnourished infants. Desperation is setting in within South Sudan over the lack of food.

On Independence Day think of how you can support South Sudan in their dream of becoming an independent nation. Think most of all about the civilians who just want to be able to farm their land, send their children to schools and develop their country.

A man drives cattle
A man drives what little remains of his herd of cattle in search of pasture after flooding in Pibor, South Sudan. Paulina Bockowska/WFP

You may be far away from South Sudan, but you can help. You can support the WFP with donations to close the funding gap. Catholic Relief Services run critical agricultural development programs in South Sudan as well as help WFP provide school meals. Save The Children, CARE, UNICEF and other charities also run relief programs in the country that fight hunger and poverty.

Providing food aid to South Sudan is the critical building block for peace.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the U.N. World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger. His writings have been published by The Washington Post, Newsweek, History News Network, Cleveland Plain Dealer and many other news outlets.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.