South Sudan is reeling from an unprecedented humanitarian crisis a month after deadly clashes between government and opposition forces set off a fresh cycle of violence and displacements, the UN has warned.
About 6 million South Sudanese – more than half of the country’s population – are now in need of humanitarian assistance, with 4.8 million facing severe hunger.
In Juba, the most recent surge in violence has left hungry, displaced families with a heart-wrenching choice: to stay inside the UN camp for displaced people and watch their children starve, or to fetch food from outside but risk attacks by marauding soldiers. More than a hundred women driven out of the camp by hunger were raped in the aftermath of the most recent violence, according to UN figures.
Experts fear that the country is on the brink of famine. An outbreak of disease could push mortality rates – one of three indicators used to define a famine – much higher.
Restrictions on movement and attacks against aid workers have further hampered relief efforts. Since the beginning of the year, the UN has recorded 261 incidents of violence against humanitarian staff or assets.