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South Sudan starves as aid is blocked

In Northern Bahr El Ghazal region of South Sudan, there are indications of famine. One-third of children in the region are estimated to be acutely malnourished.

If resources remain limited, more children will die, said Mahimbo Mdoe, the Unicef representative in South Sudan.

The food crisis is evidence of how the conflict has devastated South Sudan’s ability to function.

Since December 2013, tens of thousands of people have been killed. More than one million refugees have fled.

The UN calls South Sudan one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Even as President Salva Kiir and his government have repeatedly promised full humanitarian access to this and other areas, South Sudanese officials have restricted aid amid hostility at the international community over its attempts to calm the fighting and protect civilians.

A visit to Aweil in mid-September,showed aid airdrops by the World Food Programme (WFP) had been suspended because the government imposed what it called additional security requirements. They later resumed but were suspended again this week.

Minister of Information Michael Makuei recently told reporters that WFP had been “intransigent” with his government.

“Did they come here for humanitarian services? They came there for their own ulterior objectives,” Makuei said, reflecting some officials’ view that the UN, with its peacekeeping mission and aid agencies, had too much authority.

Between 4 and 5 million people are at risk of death if they do not receive food assistance, according to WFP, and Northern Bahr El Ghazal has been hit hardest. Roughly 60 per cent of the population faces levels of hunger described as “crisis,” ‘’emergency” or “catastrophic,” according to UN agencies.

Here, food prices are 10 times higher than they were last year, according to the government.

Civil war has “affected trade seriously,” said Aweil Governor Ronald Ruay Deng as he sat under a tree in his walled compound.

But he defended government restrictions on aid delivery, calling security crucial for any humanitarian response.

“In a country that doesn’t act like a country, permission from the president just isn’t sufficient,” one humanitarian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


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