South Sudan faces “dangerous levels of food shortages” next year, according to the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD).
The conflict has caused communities to abandon their fields at a time when they are already struggling with drought, said CAFOD. This has prevented aid from reaching them.
Cathy Hynds, the agency’s representative in the country, said: “The continuing conflict has lead to bleak humanitarian conditions, which has exacerbated the food crisis in the country.”
The Bishop of Tombura-Yambio, Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, said: “Hundreds of thousands of people are refugees, and conflict has turned what was once a rich country into one of the poorest in the region.
“Violence is easy, but for the poor, all it means is agony and displacement… A country with such a young population cannot squander its wealth in wars that nobody wins.”
According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification forecast, more than a million children under the age of five will be malnourished in 2018, with over half the country’s six million population facing severe hunger.
The warnings come as the country’s civil war enters its fifth year.
Households are forecast to run short of food before the next harvest in January 2018, three months earlier than usual. This has pushed food prices up by as much as 260 per cent, which is “vastly beyond what most families can afford”, according to a CAFOD statement.
In Yirol, central South Sudan, aid workers have reached 25,200 people with emergency food.
Bishop Kussala last week conducted a meeting of religious leaders and governors from around the country to promote “greater peace and prosperity".
Bishop of Birmingham William Kenny called on all Catholics to pray for their brothers and sisters traumatized by the war, having visited South Sudan in October.
This follows this week’s news of violence between sub-clans in the Western Lakes region of the country, leaving more than 170 dead and prompting the country’s president, Salva Kir, to declare a state of emergency.
(Pic: A refugee family from South Sudan have a meal at Palorinya settlement in Moyo district northern Uganda October 25, 2017. Picture taken October 25, 2017. REUTERS/James Akena/PA)