South Sudan Urgently Needs Help to Stave Off Famine, U.N. Warns

 

By Nick Cumming-Bruce, New York Times

 

South Sudan needs $230 million in international aid in the next 60 days or it will face the worst starvation in Africa since the 1980s, when hundreds of thousands of people died in Ethiopia’s famine, the United Nations official coordinating humanitarian aid in South Sudan warned on Thursday.

 

“We’re in a race against time,” the coordinator, Toby Lanzer, told reporters in Geneva. In a stark message to world leaders, he said, “Invest now or pay later.”

 

 

About 3.7 million people, close to one-third of the total population, are already at severe risk of starvation in South Sudan, a crisis now ranked by the United Nations on par with Syria’s, Mr. Lanzer said. He appealed for only the most essential needs, food, water, seeds and farming tools, to allow the South Sudanese to plant crops before the end of May, when rains bring the planting season to an end.

 

“If we miss the planting season, there will be a catastrophic decline in food security,” Mr. Lanzer said. “What will strike that country, and it will hit about seven million people, will be more grave than anything that continent has seen since the mid-1980s.”

 

His appeal echoed an alarm sounded by the heads of other United Nations humanitarian agencies, which estimate that 255,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries and that around 800,000 more have been driven from their homes by the violence that erupted in mid-December after President Salva Kiir said his former vice president, Riek Machar, had tried to overthrow the government.

 

 

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