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South Sudan rivals blocking aid to famine-risk zones: US, EU

sudan starving childrenRival South Sudanese forces are blocking aid to war zone areas on the brink of famine where thousands are already starving to death, the United States and European Union warned Friday.

“Widespread human rights violations against civilians are appalling and it is not tolerable that ceasefire commitments are being flouted,” the statement read, also signed by diplomats from Canada, Norway and Switzerland.

“All parties urgently need to lift obstacles that prevent access of humanitarian organisations. This is crucial to avoid the looming famine in certain regions of South Sudan.”

UN-backed experts have warned of the “concrete risk of famine” before the end of the year, if fighting continues and aid does not reach the hardest hit areas.

Over 30,000 people in South Sudan’s northern Unity state face death by starvation. Hardest hit are the counties of Leer, Guit, Koch and Mayendit, areas where aid agencies have been forced to pull out in recent months due to intense fighting.

The army and rebels have repeatedly accused each other of breaking an internationally-brokered August 26 ceasefire, the eighth such agreement aimed at ending the nearly two-year long war.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed since civil war began in December 2013.

Both sides are accused of having perpetrated ethnic massacres, recruited and killed children, and carried out widespread rape, torture and forced displacement of populations to “cleanse” areas of their opponents.

This week, an African Union human rights investigation listed a string of abuses, including forced cannibalism and dismemberment.

The United Nations’ chief in South Sudan also called Friday for the immediate release of 12 colleagues seized by rebel forces, warning their capture was a possible war crime.

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