UN: Seven million South Sudanese face high levels of food insecurity

A malnourished child being attended to at one of the nutrition centre in South Sudan last year. [File, Standard]

More than 7 million of the estimated 11 million population of South Sudan are likely to suffer high levels of food insecurity through July, said UN humanitarians on Tuesday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said intercommunal violence, economic crisis and climate-related shocks threaten at least 79,000 people with catastrophic levels of hunger.

Despite the daunting challenges, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners are stepping up their efforts. They are mobilizing support for the people displaced by intercommunal fighting in Tambura in Western Equatoria. An estimated 26,000 people have fled, and most residential areas around Tambura town are now deserted.

"Our peacekeeping colleagues are closely monitoring the situation in Tambura," said Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

"To deter further violence, the UN mission in South Sudan had immediately deployed additional peacekeepers to reinforce the site. The mission reports that they have also tripled the number of daily patrols," he added.

Haq said that about 200 Blue Helmets are conducting daily patrols to provide security to the local population. UN officials in South Sudan also continue to engage with community leaders and political parties at the national and regional levels to resolve issues and reduce intercommunal tensions peacefully.

OCHA said the influx of returnees and refugees from the conflict in Sudan continues to strain already limited services at border points and in communities hosting them.

The humanitarians said that since the war in Sudan began in April of last year, at least 670,000 new arrivals registered in South Sudan -- 80 percent of them returnees.

OCHA said this year's humanitarian appeal for South Sudan remains severely underfunded, challenging humanitarians carrying out their response efforts. Just 11 percent of the 1.8 billion U.S. dollars required has been received to date.