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S. Sudan worst-case hunger crisis looming, aid body warns

June 5, 2018 (JUBA) - More civilians in South Sudan are without food in more places than ever before in the country’s history, an international aid agency warned, saying an upsurge in fighting, lack of access and attacks on aid workers batters already food insecure communities.

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Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (File photo)

“The UN’s deadly prediction of record numbers of hungry people in South Sudan is already unfolding from what I’m seeing,” Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), who is currently visiting the war-hit nation, said on Monday.

Food security experts warned in February that unless aid and access were maintained, a record 7.1 million South Sudanese would face ‘crisis’ or worse ‘acute’ food insecurity between May and July.

“From what I’ve witnessed and what displaced people tell me, a worst-case nightmare scenario is already on our doorstep. Widows tell me how their villages were burned to the ground, their husbands killed, and they are left with children they cannot feed nor protect,” said Egeland during his visit to Unity, a former South Sudan state.

“I am outraged by how rape has become a common feature of the conflict,” he added.

Since the February warning, large parts of South Sudan have seen an upsurge in violence. Renewed fighting in parts of Unity State in April displaced thousands of civilians. Thousands of others have also been forced from their homes in Equatorial state of South Sudan.

Much of Unity and the Equatorial States have become humanitarian black holes, where access to communities is close to impossible. We still do not see the full consequences of the widespread and indiscriminate violence.

Aid agencies face a relentlessly hostile operating environment. More than a hundred aid workers have been killed since December 2013. In April alone, there were 80 reports of aid workers prevented from delivering aid.

In May, however, NRC was forced to suspend an emergency food distribution in Unity State because of active fighting in the state.

In areas too insecure to travel by road, the only option is to airdrop food to communities in need, the aid agency further stressed.

“Food drops are desperate measures in desperate times. But without this lifeline, an already bleak situation would turn into a total catastrophe. With peace South Sudan with its vast fertile lands could easily be a breadbasket for Africa,” said Egeland.

“This is a brutal war carried out largely on civilians. Men with weapons and power are continuing a senseless conflict that end up costing lots of innocent lives including women and children,” he added.

South Sudan plunged into war in December 2013, barely two years after independence from Sudan, after a disagreement between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar deteriorated into a military confrontation.

Since then, tens of thousands have been killed by the fighting between troops loyal to Kiir and forces led by Machar. The conflict has also left a quarter of South Sudan’s population of 12 million, either internally displaced or as refugees in neighbouring countries.

(ST)