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Aid Agencies: Violence in S. Sudan Could Create Famine

FILE - Women carry food at a food distribution site in Nyal, Unity State. More than one million people have been forced from their homes by the conflict, of which 803,200 have been displaced within South Sudan and 254,600 have fled to neighbouring countr

A group of international aid agencies is warning that an expected increase in violence in South Sudan could push the country into famine in the coming months. In a report Monday, the agencies say immediate assistance is needed to prevent the world’s most severe food crisis from getting worse.

In the joint report called From Crisis to Catastrophe, aid agencies warn that more than one million people could face severe hunger in South Sudan in the first three months of 2015.

The agencies say violence expected in the coming dry season could put further pressure on populations already suffering from the nearly 10-month conflict between government forces and opposition militia.

Kathleen Rutledge is the country director for Tearfund, one of the organizations behind the report. “There won’t be the same level of harvest in October, November as there should be and they are going to be facing seven months of dry season where food is gone, where assets are gone, markets have been closed, traders have been killed, roads are blocked,” she stated.

The report says more than 1.5 million people have already fled their homes as a result of the conflict, which is rooted in a political rivalry between South Sudan's president and former vice president.

Aid agencies say a humanitarian response alone is not enough, and are calling on warring parties to enforce a cease-fire.

In a release accompanying the report, Tariq Riebl, country lead for the British aid organization Oxfam said “this is a man-made crisis, not one caused by the vagaries of the weather.”

Aid agencies warned of looming famine in South Sudan earlier this year, but Rutledge says a concerted humanitarian effort has helped to relieve suffering and avoid that scenario for now.

“Right now people are expecting us to already be in the famine stage, but it has been staved off. Right now death and suffering of children could be at a higher pitch than it is, so we can prevent this,” said Rutledge.

The United Nations says $400 million is needed to meet food security needs in South Sudan this year.