Starvation declared in South Sudan; 4.9 million people need urgent help

A woman holds her young son who is suffering from dehydration and unable to walk

A woman holds her young son who is suffering from dehydration and unable to walk

South Sudan's government and three United Nations agencies say that more than 100,000 people in two counties of Unity state are experiencing famine and there are fears that the famine will spread as an additional 1 million South Sudanese are on the brink of starvation.

There is officially a famine in South Sudan, and that means people are already dying of starvation.

A civil war that has raged in the world's newest country for more than three years, together with an economic crisis, was blamed for what has been described as a "man-made" starvation. "Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive".

The catastrophe is most severe in the towns of Leer, Koch and Mayendit, which have grappled with extreme hunger, along with fighting, massacres and gang rapes, over the last two years.

The impact of the conflict, combined with high food prices, economic disruption and low agricultural production has resulted in the area becoming "food insecure", the report added.

The conflict in South Sudan has had a devastating impact on food security.

"Our worst fears have been realised", said Serge Tissot, head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation in South Sudan.

A joint statement released Monday by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Programme (WFP) said parts of north-central Unity State are now being affected by starvation. Humanitarian groups warn the crisis could spread if they do not receive help in the affected areas of South Sudan. Parts of South Sudan have been declared as experiencing starvation. They've lost their livestock, even their farming tools.

News reports a combination of civil war and economic collapse are to blame.

According to the United Nations, starvation is declared when at least 20 percent of households in an area face extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent, and two or more people per 10,000 are dying per day. WFP and the entire humanitarian community have been trying with all our might to avoid this catastrophe, mounting a humanitarian response of a scale that quite frankly would have seemed impossible three years ago.

WFP continues to scale up its support in South Sudan as humanitarian needs increase, and plans to provide food and nutrition assistance to 4.1 million people through the hunger season in South Sudan this year.

The official said that humanitarian assistance can only achieve so much in the absence of meaningful peace and security. "We can still save many lives".

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