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Kerry warns of mass starvation in South Sudan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging South Sudan's leaders to make peace as famine looms.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging South Sudan's leaders to make peace as famine looms. State Department

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today warned that South Sudan is on the brink of famine. War between the South Sudanese government and opposition forces has destroyed food supplies, threatening millions with starvation.

Kerry is urging the two sides to build peace before it's too late. In a statement today Kerry said,

This is not a crisis caused by drought or flood: it is a calamity created by conflict. Unless the fighting ends and a peace agreement is concluded, the number of those at risk of starvation -- now as many as 3.9 million people, fully one-third of the population – will reach even more catastrophic levels."

Since the war erupted, over 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. Many have lost their livelihoods in the process. With farmers unable to plant because of the fighting, hunger in the country has dramatically escalated. This is hardest on small children, who suffer lasting physical and mental damage, or death from malnutrition.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF are leading the hunger relief mission. The two agencies, and their partners, are low on funding. Wars in Syria, Iraq and the Central African Republic have demanded humanitarian resources, making it harder to focus on the South Sudan emergency. In fact, there are more refugees globally now than any time since World War II. Humanitarian agencies need a huge influx of funding to contend with famine threats in South Sudan and other areas.

WFP's director, Ertharin Cousin, today pleaded for more support. Cousin stated,

"WFP, UNICEF and our partners here on the ground have been working tirelessly to bring assistance to those suffering the consequences of this conflict and we are ready to do more and to reach more. But if we are to rapidly expand our operations and save more lives, then we need more resources, and the international community has to act now."

Both WFP and UNICEF rely on voluntary donations. WFP has set up a South Sudan relief fund. UNICEF USA also has a donation page to help.