More than 5 million South Sudanese men, women and children are at risk for starvation, according to reports from the country itself and the United Nations.
The South Sudanese government has declared famine in two counties of the country, according to an announcement by the South Sudan government and three U.N. agencies. The catastrophe is the result of a 3-year-old civil war in the country, USA Today reports.
U.N. officials allege that President Salva Kiir’s government is blocking food aid to some areas.
“This famine is man-made,”said Joyce Luma, head of the World Food Program in South Sudan. “There is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security.”
“Our worst fears have been realized,” said Serge Tissot, head of the Food and Agriculture Organization in South Sudan. He said the war has disrupted the otherwise fertile country, causing civilians to rely on “whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch.”
Roughly 5.5 million people, or about 50 percent of South Sudan’s population, are expected to be severely food insecure and at risk of death in the coming months, said the report. It added that nearly three-quarters of all households in the country suffer from inadequate food.
If food aid does not reach children urgently, “many of them will die,” said Jeremy Hopkins, head of the U.N. children’s agency in South Sudan. Over 250,000 children are severely malnourished, Hopkins said, meaning that they are at risk of death.
U.N. officials say that hunger in South Sudan is even more shocking because of the country’s fertile land.
South Sudan, it should be noted, is not the same country as the one named in President Donald Trump’s twice-struck-down travel ban. The country named in that executive order is Sudan, which South Sudan gained independence from in 1998.
USA Today reports during that war, between 70,000 to several hundred thousand South Sudanese died of famine.
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