South Sudan clashes leave 300,000 without aid, says UN

An internally displaced girl carries firewood in Ganyiel village of Panyijar County of Unity State on March 21, 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption At least 1.5 million people have been displaced in South Sudan since fighting started in 2013, the UN says

More than 300,000 people are without "life-saving" aid in South Sudan's oil-rich Unity state after heavy fighting forced aid agencies to withdraw, the UN has said.

Government forces have been advancing towards Leer, the birthplace of rebel leader Riek Machar, reports say.

Emergency relief has come to a stop in areas worst-affected by fighting, the UN said.

International mediation efforts to end the 17-month conflict have failed.

South Sudan is the world's newest state, gaining independence from Sudan in 2011.

'Depleted food stocks'

Violence broke out in December 2013 when President Sava Kiir accused Mr Machar, his sacked deputy, of plotting a coup.

Mr Machar denied the allegation, but then formed a rebel army to fight government troops.

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"Ongoing hostilities in Unity state have now obliged all non-governmental organisations and UN agencies to evacuate staff from Leer and other locations," said Toby Lanzer, the UN aid chief for South Sudan.

"As a consequence, over 300,000 civilians who are in need of emergency relief, including food aid and medical services, do not currently have access to such life-saving assistance."

On Friday, the UN said that up to 100,000 people had fled fighting in Unity state in the first week of this month.

South Sudan conflict:

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Health facilities have been destroyed in the 17-month conflict

Tracking down South Sudan's missing

Government forces have been pushing south from the state capital Bentiu into rebel-controlled territory around Leer, home to once lucrative oil fields, the AFP news agency reports.

"Renewed violence in southern Unity comes at a time when stocks of food are depleted, and precisely at the height of the traditional planting season when civilians could be planting their crops in order to reap a harvest later this year," Mr Lanzer said in a statement.

Mr Kiir and Mr Machar signed a ceasefire deal in January this year, but violence has continued in parts of the country.

The UN estimates that 10,000 people have been killed and another 1.5 million displaced since the conflict began.

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