Approximately 2.7 million people in South Sudan will require food aid from next year, according to the United Nations. Crop failures and violence have seriously hampered the newly-formed nation.
Crop failure following erratic rains has led to very high food prices, aggravated by conflict, market disruption from border closures and an increase in demand from returnees and displaced people, World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director, Chris Nikoi, said in a statement.
Food prices have already doubled or tripled in some areas, leaving hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to malnutrition at a key developmental stage of their young lives, Nikoi added.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the WFP estimate the young nation will have a shortfall of 400,000 metric tons of food in 2012 and inflation climbed to 78.8% in November, in a country of 8.3 million people.
South Sudan imports most of its food from Sudan and must now also account for the 80,000 people who fled to their country, from the northern border states where the Sudanese army is fighting insurgents.
Diplomatic relations between Sudan and South Sudan (the latter secured its independence from the war-torn North African country in July) have become increasingly worse following dead-end discussions over issues like the supply of oil, financial debt and arrears and control over disputed areas, among others.
In addition, South Sudanese officials have often accused their former government of trying to start an oil war by funding rebels in its Unity and Upper Nile states; Sudan has repeatedly denied these charges.
The background to these accusations is simple - when South Sudan seceded from Sudan, it took lands containing nearly 75 percent of its oil reserves. Sudan, on the other hand, controls the pipelines that bring the oil to the market. As Susan Rice, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said, at a talk during the International Engagement Conference on South Sudan, noted, both parties must resolve oil and transitional financial arrangements.
Meanwhile, the Sudanese claim their southern cousins are funding rebels formerly aligned to its guerrilla army in their Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.