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Famine warning for South Sudan

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The top UN peacekeeping official in South Sudan, Hilde F. Johnson, is warning of potential famine for the conflict-torn country.

Johnson said yesterday, "Famine as it is being defined is likely within 5 months unless humanitarians … get all the food they need into respective locations before the rains start. The clock is ticking and it’s a race against time.”

The rainy season in South Sudan prevents aid from moving by road. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and other aid groups rush to place supplies into position before the rains come. However, the UN reported yesterday, "Lack of funding and pipeline pre-positioning have delayed implementation of some activities, including livelihoods support."

Johnson also warned yesterday, "We think eight to 10 hundred thousand people are in a very critical situation."

The outbreak of fighting between the government and opposition forces last year displaced hundreds of thousands. The UN and other aid groups have been trying to meet emergency needs. WFP, for instance, has been airlifting food to displaced populations in remote areas.

Also, WFP is concerned about 220,000 displaced persons who have fled to neighboring countries. The UN food agency needs funding to prevent malnutrition emerging in this population.

Valerie Guarnieri, WFP Regional Director for East & Central Africa, says, “We are concerned about reports of alarmingly high rates of malnutrition among children arriving at refugee camps in neighbouring countries, particularly Ethiopia. While we are working with partners to provide specialized nutritious foods for refugee children, the high levels of malnutrition are a sign that the humanitarian situation in inaccessible regions of South Sudan may be rapidly deteriorating.”

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