UN aid agencies warn the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, already one of the biggest in the world, is getting worse as famine looms and growing numbers of refugees flee to neighboring countries.
World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Bettina Luescher says thousands of people throughout South Sudan are fleeing intensified violence that stems from the country’s nearly three-year conflict. She says they have been forced to leave their crops to rot in the field, adding to a growing problem of hunger.
“Up to four million people, a third of the population in South Sudan are severely food insecure—meaning a third of the country does not know where the next meal is coming from,” said Luescher. “The malnutrition is above emergency levels in seven of the 10 states, nearly twice of the emergency threshold in two states. We are very concerned that the threat of famine is very real, that it could happen.”
Luescher says humanitarian agencies have helped to stave off catastrophe so far. But, she says funds to carry out life-saving operations are running out.
In the meantime, the United Nations refugee agency reports the number of people fleeing South Sudan continues to grow. Last month, it says, an average of 3,500 people fled to neighboring countries each day.