US offers South Sudan $180m in aid to combat food crisis

A child with suspected malnutrition is weighed at IMC nutrition program clinic in Malakal, South Sudan (25 July 2014) Image copyright AP
Image caption Fighting has disrupted farming in South Sudan leading to nationwide food shortages and malnutrition

The US is providing $180m (£107m) in emergency aid to help address the food crisis in South Sudan, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice says.

She said suffering there was caused by rival leaders' inability "to put their people's interests above their own".

UN Security Council envoys are meeting President Salva Kiir and his opponent Riek Machar in the capital, Juba, in a bid to end the eight-month conflict.

The UN has described South Sudan's food crisis as "the worst in the world".

More than a million people have fled their homes since fighting erupted between different factions of South Sudan's ruling party last December.

Thousands have died in the conflict that started as a political dispute between President Kiir and his ex-deputy Mr Machar, but has since escalated into ethnic violence.

Sanctions threat

"The scale of the suffering and humanitarian need there is shocking, and the threat of famine is real," Ms Rice said in a statement on Tuesday.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption International aid organisations warn that the risk of famine is increasing

She said President Kiir and Mr Machar "must immediately assume their responsibilities to the South Sudanese to prevent further needless suffering".

The announcement came as UN Security Council envoys arrived in Juba to meet with the rival leaders on a two-day mission to end the crisis.

The envoys have reportedly warned both men they could face sanctions if the civil war does not stop, according to AFP news agency.

"The council has made it very clear that it is prepared to impose consequences if there continue to be spoilers, if there continue to be people carrying out gross violations of human rights," the agency quoted US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power as saying.

Western governments and international aid organisations have condemned the warring sides for failing to meet a regional deadline set earlier this week to end the conflict.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption UN Security Council envoys are seen here in a meeting with President Salva Kiir in Juba on Tuesday

US Secretary of State John Kerry accused both camps of failing to commit to the peace process, after the 10 August deadline for the government and opposition to form a transitional government passed without results.

"Deadlines keep passing and innocent people keep dying," he said in a statement on Monday.

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

The Care International charity has warned that the failure to reach a deal means South Sudan's "severe man-made food crisis could reach catastrophic levels".

It said almost four million people are now suffering from a food crisis, after months of fighting has prevented farmers from planting or harvesting crops.

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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