Authorities in conflict-stricken South Sudan have declared famine in two areas of the African country, which is the world’s youngest.
“In greater Unity [State], some counties are classified [as being] in famine or... risk of famine,” said Isaiah Chol Aruai, the chairman of South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistic, on Monday.
Aruai also announced that between February and April, 4.9 million people in the country would become “food insecure,” and that the number would rise by 600,000 by July.
He cited war, high food prices, other economic problems, and low agricultural production as the reasons for the state of food insecurity in South Sudan.
Meanwhile, United Nations (UN) agencies have also warned of growing famine in the country.
According to an announcement by the South Sudan government and three UN agencies, South Sudan’s civil war coupled with an entrenched economic crisis has led to a humanitarian disaster in the war-torn East African state.
Apart from 100,000-plus people in two counties of Unity State, an additional one million South Sudanese are on the brink of starvation, said the announcement.
“Our worst fears have been realized,” said Serge Tissot, the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization in South Sudan.
If food aid does not reach children urgently, “many of them will die,” said Jeremy Hopkins, a UN official in South Sudan. Over 250,000 children are severely malnourished in the African country, he said.
Separately, the head of the World Food Program in South Sudan blamed its politicians for the humanitarian crisis.
“This famine is man-made,” said Joyce Luma. “There is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security.”
Civil war broke out in South Sudan in 2013, when disagreements between President Salva Kiir and then-vice president Riek Machar turned into an armed conflict between their loyalists. While fighting generally subsided early last year, clashes once again intensified in July 2016.
Tens of thousands of people have died in the civil war, and more than three million people have been uprooted.