Some 30,000 people in South Sudan face death by starvation, and tens of thousands more are on the "brink of famine," the United Nations said Thursday. Though a famine has not officially been declared, the U.N. report documented the most dire conditions the country has seen since a bloody civil war broke out 22-months ago, the Agence France-Presse reported.
"At least 30,000 people are living in extreme conditions and are facing starvation and death," the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.N. children’s advocacy agency UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a joint statement.
Hunger was highest in areas that have been affected by the heaviest fighting, including the Unity State, which was once the country’s greatest oil producing region prior to the war. In recent months, the region has seen mass abduction and rape. The joint statement by the human rights organizations said they required unrestricted access in order to alleviate deteriorating conditions.
— UNOCHA South Sudan (@OCHASouthSudan) October 16, 2015
"Since fighting broke out nearly two years ago, children have been plagued by conflict, disease, fear and hunger," Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF's chief in South Sudan, said.
Parts of the country have already reached phase five, classified as “catastrophe,” while a number of states are just one step short of famine, characterized as “emergency” or “phase four.” When phase 5 reaches 20 percent of a population, the situation officially becomes a famine.
— FAO Newsroom (@FAOnews) October 22, 2015
South Sudan also faced an impending famine last year, which was averted due to intervention by the international community.
South Sudan, the world’s newest state, has been gripped by violence since December 2013, when the country’s president, Salva Kiir, accused his former vice president of planning to stage a coup against him. The nation has since broken down largely along ethnic fault lines, as thousands of people have been killed in violence and millions displaced from their homes. Both rebel fighters affiliated with the former vice president and forces loyal to Kiir have been accused by human rights organizations of committing egregious rights violations.