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Famine declared in South Sudan; U.N. says more than 5M at risk

Government and United Nations reports said up to 5.5 million people could face extreme food shortages by July.

By
Ed Adamczyk
Civilians seek refuge in United Nations compounds from the country's civil war. U.N. and government reports released Monday indicate a famine, prompted by the fighting, has begun in South Sudan's Unity state, and up to 5.5 million people could face extereme food shortages by July. File Photo by Julio Brathwaite/UN/UPI
Civilians seek refuge in United Nations compounds from the country's civil war. U.N. and government reports released Monday indicate a famine, prompted by the fighting, has begun in South Sudan's Unity state, and up to 5.5 million people could face extereme food shortages by July. File Photo by Julio Brathwaite/UN/UPI

Feb. 20 (UPI) -- South Sudan on Monday declared a famine is affecting 100,000 people while U.N. agencies report another 1 million people are on the threshold of starvation.

A shared report from the government and three U.N. agencies -- the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program and the children's aid group UNICEF -- indicate up to 5.5 million people, or half of South Sudan's population, are expected to face food insecurity issues by July.

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South Sudan has seen a three-year war between the government and rebel factions, leading to the displacement of 3 million people and the disruption of farming.

"If sustained and adequate assistance is delivered urgently, the hunger situation can be improved in the coming months and further suffering mitigated," a joint statement by the U.N. agencies said Monday.

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Twenty percent of the Unity state's residents face an extreme food shortage, a malnutrition rate above 30 percent and a death toll of at least two people per day per 10,000 people, the requisites of a formal declaration of famine. The government's Integrated Food Security Phase Classification update, released Monday, said 14 of 23 assessed counties have acute malnutrition rates reaching 42 percent.

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Serge Tissot of the FAO said, "Our worst fears have been realized" in Unity state, where the war disrupted farming and residents of the otherwise fertile country were forced to rely on "whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch."

"More than 1 million children are currently estimated to be acutely malnourished across South Sudan; over a quarter of a million children are already severely malnourished. If we do not reach these children with urgent aid many of them will die," said Jeremy Hopkins of UNICEF.

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