Juba — The United Nations has warned of an upcoming food and nutrition crisis in South Sudan, saying as many as seven million people could be affected this year.
This comes a day after the world body said aid agencies in the country urgently needed $1.27 billion to assist 3.2 million people suffering the humanitarian consequences of weeks of violence in the new nation.
Some 3.7 million, according the UN, are already facing acute or emergency levels, nearly two weeks after violent conflict hit the country killing more than 1,000 people and displacing an estimated 800,000.
"Markets have collapsed, infrastructure is damaged, foreign traders have fled, commodity supply corridors have been disrupted by violence, and rural populations are unable to bring their crops, livestock and fish to market for sale," said Sue Lautze, South Sudan country director for Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
"South Sudan was already the scene of one of the world's largest humanitarian operations before the fighting began, and the situation is now deteriorating rapidly," she added.
Meanwhile, the agency said it has only received less than 6 per cent of the updated $77 million it is seeking for an emergency response plan to provide seeds, basic tools, and fishing and community animal health equipment.
The plan, according to FAO, would assist 545,000 households in states most affected by fighting and protect food production in less affected areas.
The severe food insecurity will be further exacerbated if farmers miss the planting season beginning in March.
"Missing the main planting season will have serious knock-on effects on food production and availability in the country in 2014 and on into 2015," Dominique Burgeon, New York Director of FAO's emergency and rehabilitation dvision said in a statement.
"At the moment supply corridors have been disrupted or completely shut down in many areas of the country, and farmers need urgent assistance to access vital agricultural inputs in time," she said.
FAO has also warned of threats to livestock production, citing potential disease outbreaks due to conditions worsened by the conflict. Many of its facilities were reportedly looted leaving its centers without animal vaccines.
To prevent the spread of diseases, however, the agency said it would equip and train community workers to provide basic health support during migrations and help restore the cold chain.
Statistics on the wealth of livestock per capita in South Sudan have indicated the region is leading the world in the underutilised economic sector.
With a population of 8.2 million people according to a 2008 disputed population census, South Sudan has over 31 million head of cattle, sheep and goats, making it a world-leading nation when the animal wealth is calculated per capita.