A senior government official on Monday said nearly half the country's population would be short of food by July. Last week, the UN said the number of refugees who have fled the fighting in South Sudan has surpassed 1.5 million.

Almost all of the people who have fled South Sudan seeking refuge in Uganda are women and children.
Almost all of the people who have fled South Sudan seeking refuge in Uganda are women and children. (TRT World and Agencies)

Parts of war-ravaged South Sudan have been hit by famine, a senior government official said on Monday. He added that nearly half the country's population would be suffering food shortages by July.

"In greater Unity (state), some counties are classified in famine or ... risk of famine," said Isaiah Chol Aruai, chairman of South Sudan's National Bureau of Statistics.

He said the long term effect of the conflict combined with high food prices, economic disruption and low agricultural production was expected to make 4.9 million people food insecure between February and April, with that number rising to 5.5 million by July.

"There is complete lack of international attention on this crisis that is unfolding," the Lutheran World Federation's Uganda representative Jesse Kamstra said.

"I don't know how many more thousands have to come and flee or die before the international community wakes up and realises what is happening here on the ground."

TRT World's Sarah Jones has more.

Oil-rich and starving

Oil-rich South Sudan has been mired in civil war since 2013, when President Salva Kii fired his deputy. Since then the fighting has increasingly split the country along ethnic lines, leading the UN to warn of a potential genocide.

The fighting has prevented many farmers from harvesting their crops while hyper inflation which reached more than 800 percent last year has put the price of imported food beyond the reach of many.

According to the UN, famine is declared when at least 20 percent of households in an area face extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent, and two or more people per 10,000 are dying per day.

The fighting has uprooted more than 3 million people and a UN report released on Monday said continuing displacement presented "heightened risks of prolonged (food) underproduction into 2018".

Many parts of the country are very hard to reach. Six years after independence from neighbouring Sudan, South Sudan only has only 200 km (120 miles) of paved roads in a nation the size of Texas. Fighting also impedes aid delivery; warehouses have been looted and aid workers have been killed.

This month, in a sign the war was taking a turn for the worse, Kiir's government has been hit by high-profile defections.

Two top military officials resigned their positions, citing ethnic favouritism, human rights abuses and others charges.

Punishments handed out to some soldiers from the Dinka, Kiir's tribe, for crimes including rape and murder were being set aside, Colonel Khalid Ono Loki, one of officials who resigned said. The minister of labour has also defected to the rebels.

Source: TRT World