The United Nations has voiced alarm over dire living conditions in South Sudan’s war-zone regions, saying tens of thousands of people there are facing death by starvation.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) said in a joint statement on Thursday that “at least 30,000 people are living in extreme conditions and are facing starvation and death.”
Sources say those worst affected are in the northern battleground state of Unity, once the country’s key oil-producing region, which has been a scene of heavy fighting between government troops and rebels.
Latest UN figure shows some 3.9 million people are in crisis -- a third of the country’s population. The figure marks a massive 80-percent rise compared to the same period last year.
Meanwhile, WFP chief Joyce Luma, has said that the counties of Leer, Guit, Koch and Mayendit, are the hardest-hit areas, where aid agencies have been forced to pull out in recent months due to fierce fighting.
“People are on the edge of a catastrophe that can be prevented,” Luma said.
The world body has also warned that thousands more are on the brink of famine across the conflict-torn country.
This comes as Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), which classifies hunger, has said in a report that “there is a concrete risk of famine occurring between October and December 2015 if urgent humanitarian access and assistance is not provided in the most affected areas.”
Meanwhile, UNICEF chief in South Sudan Jonathan Veitch has alerted that children are bearing the brunt of the ongoing violence in the landlocked country.
“Since fighting broke out nearly two years ago, children have been plagued by conflict, disease, fear and hunger,” Veitch said, adding, “Their families have been extraordinary in trying to sustain them, but have now exhausted all coping mechanisms. Agencies can support, but only if we have unrestricted access. If we do not, many children may die.”
South Sudan plunged into chaos in December 2013, when fighting erupted between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and defectors led by his former deputy, Riek Machar, around Juba.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands and displaced more than two million people.
The government forces and rebels signed a ceasefire deal, which has reportedly failed to stop the clashes.