Urgent access needed to prevent "catastrophe" in South Sudan

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A health worker measures a baby girl's arm, at an outpatient therapeutic feeding centre at the Protection of Civilians site on the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Malakal, capital of Upper Nile State. Photo: UNICEF/Christine Nesbitt

Urgent access is needed to South Sudanese civilians caught up in their country's civil war, according to UN agencies working on the ground there.

Fighting between troops loyal to the South Sudanese president, and opposing forces loyal to his former deputy, has been raging for nearly two years.

Nearly four million people are facing extreme hunger in parts of the world's newest country.

Matthew Wells reports:

The three agencies, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) warn that the rampant food insecurity could end in catastrophe, unless they can reach civilians soon. 

The WFP's country director, Joyce Luma, said most of those affected had fled their homes, and widespread famine was a real possibility: 

"The only thing that they can rely on, are the roots from the swamps. So a very limited amount of food and what we are seeing now are famine-like conditions, in those locations where humanitarian assistance, where agencies like us, WFP, have not been able to go."  

This is the first time in the course of the conflict a famine-alert has been issued. 

Tens-of-thousands have been killed in the largely ethnic-violence, and an estimated two million people have been forced from their homes. 

The three agencies warned that the dire economic situation in the country had also triggered record-high food prices. 

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 58″

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