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UN alarmed about food shortages in South Sudan

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As violence escalates in South Sudan many thousands of displaced persons are also confronted with food shortages. The United Nations said yesterday that "availability of food.. is very limited" and "Most displaced people report skipping meals and/or rationing food for the children as coping mechanisms."

When violence escalates, so too does hunger. That is the other fear going forward as fighting between the government and opposition forces has spread across 5 of 10 states in South Sudan.

Over 40,000 civilians have sought refuge at UN bases. People are too afraid to leave the base to buy or collect food. Malnutrition could escalate among an already impoverished population.

The UN warns, "If protracted, the inadequate food consumption, coupled with the reported high incidence of disease and poor water, sanitation and hygiene conditions pose a risk for the nutritional status of the displaced, especially pregnant and lactating women and children."

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is preparing to make distributions at the UN bases. WFP has placed 58 metric tonnes of super-cereal and sugar at the UN base in the capital of Juba. The food also includes high-energy biscuits for children under five years of age.

WFP is also planning distributions at the UN base of Bentiu in Unity State. The UN says food needs are also high in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state. There are at least 15,000 people seeking safety with the UN base there.

However, WFP is already low on funding for its mission in South Sudan. This fall WFP reduced rations for some of its programs because of lack of donations. WFP is voluntarily funded and needs US $93 million for its next six months of planned relief operations in South Sudan.

Humanitarian needs will likely increase with this new outbreak of fighting, the latest in a series of tragedies to strike South Sudan. The newly independent country is still recovering from years of civil war with Sudan as well as internal conflict between rival tribes.

President Obama, in a message of peace, says, "South Sudan’s leaders must recognize that compromise with one’s political enemy is difficult; but recovering from unchecked violence and unleashed hatred will prove much harder."

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