Aweil - Two months after the world's youngest nation declared a famine amid its civil war, hunger has become more widespread than expected, aid workers say.South Sudan's Northern Bahr el Ghazal region is on the brink of starvation, with 290 000 people at risk of dying without sustained food assistance. Humanitarian workers say conditions will only deteriorate as the lean season approaches.In February, South Sudan and the United Nations formally declared a famine in two counties in Unity State. Northern Bahr el Ghazal's five counties now face the same fate.Harsh climate"All five counties are sliding into catastrophe," said an aid worker. "If it wasn't for food assistance, this place would be at a level five famine".Northern Bahr el Ghazal and its 1.4 million residents have remained relatively peaceful during South Sudan's three-year civil war. But due to soaring inflation fuelled by the conflict, harsh climate conditions and its remoteness, this region has become severely affected by hunger.One by one, people stagger into aid group World Vision's food distribution compound. Some had hobbled through the bush on one good leg, while others had walked for hours with bloody feet under the sweltering sun. A steady stream of women with weak children strapped to their backs and babies attempting to nurse could be seen for kilometres. Vulnerable peopleWorld Vision last week rolled out the first phase of a programme to provide 65 000 people in Aweil East county with food during the month of April. The aim is to start with 17 000 of the most severely malnourished and vulnerable people.Aid workers said they weren't prepared for the level of despair."I was shocked by the number of malnourished kids here," said the aid group's South Sudan communications manager, Rose Ogola. "And the looks of desperation on the mothers."