Hungry South Sudanese 'under the radar': Red Cross

2014-09-25 22:09


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Geneva - The scale of South Sudan's food crisis remains a massive unknown, with aid workers fearing the worst in isolated parts of the conflict-ravaged country, the international Red Cross said on Thursday.

"The situation is critical," said Dominik Stillhart, director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"What remains to be seen now is are there populations out there that are completely under the radar today?" he told reporters.

The United Nations has estimated that 3.9 million people in the country are failing to get regular food.

"We will see probably at the end of the rainy season, probably when access will be improving, whether we can really speak about famine," said Stillhart, noting that aid operations were helping to hold off that spectre for now.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, six years after a peace deal which ended decades of conflict.

The young nation plunged into renewed violence last December following clashes between fighters loyal to the president and supporters of his sacked former deputy.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 1.8 million have fled their homes, leaving them unable to plant crops essential for their survival.

Both sides have faced accusations of slaughtering civilians and carrying out other breaches of the laws of war, which the Red Cross monitors.

Serious violations

"What is clear is that serious violations of international humanitarian law have taken place. There is no doubt with the massacre and killing of so many civilians," said Stillhart.

Repeated ceasefire deals have broken down, and efforts to form a unity government have so far failed.

Talks resumed in Ethiopia on Monday as sporadic fighting continued to rage in the oil-rich but impoverished country.

Stillhart said he was in South Sudan when the 2005 peace deal was signed and again for independence in 2011.

"I have rarely seen people as joyful," he said.

"I think nobody, least of all the South Sudanese themselves, thought they would see exactly the same images again as for the past so many decades," he added.

The Red Cross and other aid agencies have repeatedly complained that their South Sudan operations face huge funding shortfalls, which Stillhart said were partly due to the country's intractable political wrangling.

"If there is not a very serious input, and especially food distribution, we will see a situation that is much worse next year," he warned.

Read more on:    south sudan  |  east africa

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