U.N. warns of South Sudan famine as donors pledge more aid

Tue May 20, 2014 4:25pm EDT
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By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) - More than a third of South Sudan's population, or 4 million people, will be on the brink of starvation by the end of 2014 as fighting rages in the world's newest country, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.

"We are losing time. Farmers should be planting their crops right now," United Nations' aid chief Valerie Amos told a donors' conference in Oslo. "If they don't, and if livestock herders are not able to migrate to grazing areas, people will run out of food."

Clashes between rebels and government forces have wrecked food markets and forced people to abandon livestock and land.

The U.N. has estimated that $1.8 billion in aid is needed for South Sudan, more than the $1.3 billion previously estimated. Donors including the United States, Britain and Norway have agreed to give more than $600 million on top of $536 million already pledged.

USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg urged South Sudan's leaders to make sure aid reaches people in need. "All the money in the world is not going to make a difference if we can't reach people," she said.

Violence erupted in the oil-producing country in December after a long power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

Kiir told the BBC in an interview first broadcast on Monday that "the civilian population is going to face one of the worst famines that has ever been witnessed in South Sudan" and appealed to Machar for an end to the conflict.

"We have to stop this fighting so that we save the people's lives," Kiir said, adding that aid must reach civilians.   Continued...

A south Sudanese woman carries her child as she looks at a humanitarian aid cargo plane in Akuem village in southern Sudan September 15, 2005.  REUTERS/David Mwangi