South Sudan leaders warned over 'man-made food crisis'

Elderly South Sudanese woman carries rice back to her refugee camp Image copyright AFP
Image caption There have been warning that the risk of famine is increasing

An international charity has condemned the rival leaders in South Sudan's conflict for failing to meet a regional deadline to end the civil war.

The failure to reach a deal means the country's "severe man-made food crisis could reach catastrophic levels", Care International said.

In May, the government and opposition had promised to agree and form a transitional government by 10 August.

Care said almost four million people are now suffering from a food crisis.

The conflict began in December 2013, triggered by political tensions between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, and then descended into ethnic violence.

A truce agreed in January also failed to bring peace, as fighting resumed soon after it was signed.

'Humanitarian catastrophe'

The civil war in South Sudan has forced 1.5 million people from their homes, left tens of thousands dead and almost four million suffering from a severe food crisis, according to Care International.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The fighting started in December 2013 and has forced 1.5 million people from their homes
Image copyright AFP
Image caption This includes some 400,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries
Image copyright Care International UK
Image caption Humanitarian organisations in South Sudan have found it hard to get access to those who need aid

"The UN and NGOs have been warning for months that risk of famine is increasing," said Aimee Ansari, director of Care International in South Sudan.

"There is still time to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe, but the best solution is for all parties to permanently lay down their weapons."

Humanitarian aid organisations have faced hurdles when trying to deliver aid and assistance to those who need it, especially with the onset of the rainy season.

Several aid workers have been killed this month and many remain missing.

Image caption Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in December 2013. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians' political bases are often ethnic.
Image caption Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Image caption Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan's budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state - at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
Image caption The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Image caption After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world's newest country - and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water - up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Image caption Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan - however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Image caption Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).

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