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South Sudan’s N. Bahr el Ghazal denies reports that hunger caused death

August 17, 2011 (AWEIL) - An official in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state government on Wednesday refuted media reports alleging that citizens in the region were dying of severe hunger, less than two months since South Sudan became Africa’s newest nation.

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Bona Makuac Mawien, the Northern Bahr el Ghazal state minister for information and communication addresses the media in Aweil. South Sudan. August, 17, 2011 (ST)

Speaking at a hastily convened press conference in Aweil, the state capital, Bona Makuac Mawien, the state minister for information and communication acknowledged the presence of hunger in some counties, but said the situation was not bad enough to cause deaths.

The minister was responding to a local media, which alleged that an unidentified woman from Luo Aguer Geng village in Aweil East reportedly died as a result of lack of food.

But during the press conference, Mawien blamed some sections of the media for misinforming the public through presenting inaccurate reports without verifying sources.

“In my view, misinformation plus prejudgment equals to injustice and unfairness.” He asked journalists in South Sudan to follow proper procedures to verify information and to report objectively.

The information and communication minister mainly attributed the hunger problem in parts of the state to this year’s unpredictable rainfall, which delayed harvests. He also blamed high food prices for shortages, which he claimed resulted from economic blockades imposed by the North Sudan after South Sudan seceded in July.

“Much as some of these issues I have mentioned were far beyond our control, the state government has been very instrumental in providing the basic needs of the population in line with its rightful mandate.”

The state government, he added, has put in place the necessary institutional framework and departments to protect its citizens, having been given that mandate in last year’s general elections.

South Sudan’s government has established a four year plan to improve security, development, economic growth, and poverty reduction.

Despite a 2005 peace deal with Khartoum, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, like many areas of South Sudan have struggled to reduce poverty and health services and improve security.

Currently good security, good governance and the need to improve security along its borders reportedly top state priorities.

In neighbouring Warrap, the state’s governor has also denied that hunger has caused the death of over 300 people since June, despite reports from local chiefs to the contrary.

(ST)