More than 6 million people in South Sudan — or nearly 60 percent of the population — face desperate food shortages, with many on the brink of famine, warns a joint report by three leading United Nations agencies.
Particular emphasis was placed on seven counties in South Sudan, where food shortages have reached catastrophic levels. Under the U.N. classification system, these counties have reached a Level 5, which is an early warning of famine.
The report by the World Food Program, U.N. Children's Fund, and Food and Agriculture Organization blames the hardship on widespread conflict and lack of humanitarian access in the former states of Unity, Lakes, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Leer and Mayendit.
"Although famine was averted by June 2017, lack of access areas prevent humanitarian organizations from having a clear understanding of needs today," said Herve Verhoosel, a World Food Program spokesman. "Action and political leadership are needed."
The WFP has reached more than 3 million people with 30,000 tons of food this year, Verhoosel says. The agency is preparing to respond to growing needs in 2019.
The Food and Agriculture Organization reports it has provided 1.4 million farmers with agricultural seeds and tools during the main planting season, so they can increase cereal production.
The U.N. Children's Fund and partners reportedly have provided therapeutic treatment for more than 147,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition since January.
Ultimately, the three agencies agree that only a sustainable peace across South Sudan will allow people in this beleaguered country to live safe, fulfilling lives.
South Sudan has been plagued by civil war since 2013 as a result of a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar. Kiir and Machar recently signed a renewed peace accord.