Floods, drought and armed clashes in South Sudan have pushed more than 7.7 million people, 63 per cent of the nation, into a food crisis.
Over the weekend, the United Nations and the South Sudanese government said extreme weather conditions, rising armed violence, and the number of internally displaced people have sparked high food insecurity, which had worsened since last year.
“We will continue to have the situation we have in South Sudan if we don’t start to make that transition to ensuring peace at the community levels,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan Sara Beysolow Nyanti said.
The most affected populations hail from the Unity, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap, and Eastern Equatorial states, according to a joint UN and government report.
“Until conflict is addressed, we will continue to see these numbers increase because what it means is that people do not have safe access to their lands to cultivate,” Adeyinka Badejo, the World Food Programme acting country director in South Sudan said.
“We appeal to the leaders of the country to continue towards the path of peace.”
Last week, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his vice president, Riek Machar, agreed to resume talks on integrating their rival forces under a unified command following weeks of escalating conflict.
In spite of the agreement, fresh fighting erupted on Friday between the state and opposition forces in oil-rich Unity State.
Though signing on to a peace deal in 2018 that ended five years of civil war, and forming a unity government two years ago, clashes between Kiir and Machar’s opposing sides have continued amid disagreement about how they would share power.
Since its independence in 2011, South Sudan has suffered continuing instability. Both leaders have been criticised by the UN for their role in the violence, as well as for stifling political freedoms and plundering national coffers.
So far, the conflict has cost almost 400,000 lives and uprooted millions from their homes. The figures are going higher by the day.
In March, the UN launched an international appeal for South Sudan to raise $1.7bn in aid needed to provide urgent, life-saving assistance to help millions through 2022.
Over two-thirds of the population – almost nine million people – are in need of humanitarian assistance, the UN said.