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UN, U.S. and European leaders sound alarm on famine in South Sudan

Leaders from the United Nations, the United States and Europe warned yesterday of famine in South Sudan. The already impoverished country is the setting of conflict between the government and opposition forces.

Sharing in times of hardships. A woman shares fruits with her three children in Leerja Island. It is estimated that 3.7 million people are now at high risk of food insecurity, including 1.1 million people in the emergency phase.

UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos said, "We are here today to sound the alarm for South Sudan. The effects of the conflict are significant– millions of people have been affected, cities have been destroyed, the economy has collapsed and food production has been devastated. We fear a serious food and nutrition crisis in the next few months if the situation doesn’t improve soon.”

UNICEF had warned earlier in the week that thousands of children will starve to death if action is not taken.

The leaders are calling for an end to the fighting and increased funding for humanitarian aid. Food and other supplies must be allowed to reach the conflict areas.

The European Union Commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, says, "We all celebrated with the world's newest nation when South Sudan became independent. Less than three years later, we are witnessing a humanitarian disaster of appalling proportions. It is innocent civilians who are paying the highest price for what has happened. We need to stand by them, while doing everything we can to get their leaders to put an end to a conflict that is wrecking lives and livelihoods across South Sudan."

Dr. Rajiv Shah of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also spoke out for urgent aid for South Sudan. USAID's Food for Peace program is going to play a key role in famine relief.

Food for Peace is the largest supporter of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which is trying to feed millions in South Sudan. Funding, however, is low for the UN food agency. WFP is also fighting famine conditions in Central African Republic and Syria.

Dr. Shah warns, “This declaration is a wake-up call to prevent a deeper catastrophe from unfolding in South Sudan. Today, indicators tell us that South Sudan is on the brink of famine, and it’s clear that the world must now do more to address this crisis.”

Ministers from the United Kingdom, Norway, China, the Netherlands, Canada and others also took part in the high-level meeting.

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