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UN warns of food crisis in South Sudan

By Alex Pena, for CNN
updated 10:21 AM EST, Wed February 8, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Millions could face food shortages and hunger in South Sudan, the U.N. says
  • Food supply routes into South Sudan have been blocked, the report says
  • South Sudan became independent from Sudan last year

(CNN) -- Less than a week after the United Nations declared an end to the famine in Somalia, a new report from the world body says millions of people in South Sudan will now face hunger if urgent action is not taken.

The report released Wednesday by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) says that fighting in the northern border region and ethnic clashes in many other parts of South Sudan has created a level of food insecurity that could nearly double in the next year.

"Poor harvests, increased demand, rapidly rising prices, displacement and a large number of returnees have all contributed to the situation," the report says.

"The situation is dire," said Chris Nikoi, WFP's country director in South Sudan. "This is a rapidly approaching crisis that the world cannot afford to ignore."

Under a normal functioning market, food insecurity and increased demand might have been addressed, the report says, but border closures that link the newly independent South Sudan to Sudan have disrupted the usual supply of food commodities to South Sudan's markets.

The fighting along the disputed border regions and ethnic clashes over cattle in multiple South Sudanese states is responsible for the displacement of tens of thousands in the country. The U.N. reported that more than 120,000 people might have been affected in South Sudan's Jonglei state after clashes between the Murle and Lou Nuer tribes have killed hundreds, possibly thousands.

Sudan and South Sudan will also be entering another round of talks this week to settle a bitter dispute over oil that seems to be edging the two countries toward more conflict.

The WFP says it is scaling up operations to reach the millions of people at risk, but is trying to meet its goal of $160 million in donor support. The FAO is hoping for $23 million in donor support.

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