40,000 S. Sudanese on brink of catastrophe: UN

Khartoum, Feb 9 (IANS) At least 40,000 South Sudanese citizens are threatened to starve to death due to escalating food insecurity in the new-born state, UN agencies said Monday.

“South Sudan is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, as 2.8 million people — nearly 25 percent of the country’s population — remain in urgent need of food assistance, and at least 40,000 people are on the brink of catastrophe,” said a joint statement by UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP), Xinhua reported.

The three UN agencies said the dry season, which is now beginning, could bring additional hardship to people facing the most severe levels of hunger.

The agencies urged for a speedy implementation of the peace agreement signed last year, and for unrestricted access to conflict areas to deliver much needed supplies to the most affected areas.

“It is not only areas directly affected by conflict that are food insecure — some 200,000 people in Northern Bahr El Ghazal and Warrap states have also seen their access to food deteriorate, owing to factors such as price inflation and market disruptions that are tied to the conflict,” said Serge Tissot, Acting FAO Representative in South Sudan.

“Prompt implementation of the peace agreement is absolutely critical to improving the food situation.”

Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF representative in South Sudan, meanwhile, warned in the statement against continuation of deteriorated security conditions and lack of access to humanitarian assistance to the needy.

“Families have been doing everything they can to survive but they are now running out of options,” he said.

Aid agencies in South Sudan are facing difficulties in their work, particularly after the parliament has recently passed a bill restricting the work of the NGOs and reducing the number of foreign aid workers.

South Sudan has been facing tough humanitarian conditions because of the civil war which erupted in 2013, where many international humanitarian organisations have earlier suspended their activities because of the violence and government restrictions on aid groups.

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