Famine conditions in South Sudan war zones: monitors

Sudan_-_Location_Map_(2011)_-_SDN_-_UNOCHA.svgCivilians in South Sudan’s battleground states are already dying of starvation as monitors warned of famine conditions, adding that the situation will likely worsen in coming months.

“Intensified conflict in southern Unity State and parts of Upper Nile State has displaced tens of thousands of people and blocked humanitarian access to areas already classified as emergency,” the US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) said in its latest report this week.

Large areas are already classified as being just one step short of famine, termed “Emergency” or “phase four”, according to the technical measure, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). Famine is classified as “Catastrophe” or “phase five.”

“Some households in areas worst-affected by conflict are likely facing Catastrophe,” the report seen Friday by AFP added. “If insecurity continues to prevent food assistance delivery to southern Unity in the coming two months, the number of households facing Catastrophe (phase 5) is likely to increase.”

As well as Unity and Upper Nile, households in areas of the eastern Jonglei state are also “likely” to be already dying in famine conditions.

Despite identifying famine levels of malnutrition in some areas, the monitors stopped short of a formal declaration of famine, saying those conditions are not yet faced by a fifth of the population, the technical threshold.

Civil war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings across the country that has split the poverty-stricken, landlocked country along ethnic lines.

Two-thirds of the country’s 12 million people need aid, according to the UN.

“The severity of food insecurity in June and July is likely to be worse than previously anticipated, especially in areas cut-off from assistance, where an increasing number of households are likely to face catastrophe,” the report added.

Economic collapse and soaring inflation have caused “dramatic spikes” in food prices, with the market price of the staple grain sorghum increasing by up to 90 percent, it added.

Since the start, civilians have borne the brunt of the fighting. A year ago famine was averted in the three states most affected by the war only after a huge intervention by aid agencies.

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