Famine declared in part of South Sudan

A queue at a food distribution station run by the World Food Program in South Sudan.
A queue at a food distribution station run by the World Food Program in South Sudan.Kate Holt/UNICEF via Associated Press

KAMPALA, Uganda — Famine has been declared in two counties of South Sudan, according to the South Sudan government and UN agencies, the result of prolonged civil war and an economic crisis that has severely strained the East African nation.

The official classification of famine highlights the human suffering caused by South Sudan’s three-year civil war and even as it is declared President Salva Kiir’s government is blocking food aid to some areas, according to UN officials.

More than 100,000 people in two counties of Unity state are experiencing famine and there are fears that the famine will spread as an additional 1 million South Sudanese are on the brink of starvation, the UN announcement said.


Roughly 5.5 million people, or about 50 percent of South Sudan’s population, are expected to be severely food insecure and at risk of death in the coming months, the report said.

If food aid does not reach children urgently ‘‘many of them will die,’’ said Jeremy Hopkins, head of the UN children’s agency in South Sudan. Over 250,000 children are severely malnourished, he said, meaning they are at risk of death.

Monday’s declaration of starvation is solely South Sudan’s creation, and a UN official blamed the country’s politicians for the humanitarian crisis.

‘‘This famine is man-made,” said Joyce Luma, head of the World Food Program in South Sudan. ‘‘There is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security.’’