OSLO, May 20 (Reuters) - More than a third of South Sudan’s population, 4 million people, will be on the edge of starvation by the end of the year as fighting rages on in the world’s newest country, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.
Clashes between rebels and government forces have wrecked food markets and forced people to abandon their livestock and land, the aid experts added.
“We are losing time. Farmers should be planting their crops right now,” Valerie Amos, the United Nations’ aid chief, told a donors’ conference in Oslo.
“If they don’t, and if livestock herders are not able to migrate to grazing areas, people will run out of food.”
Violence erupted in the oil-producing country in December following a long power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar.
Kiir told the BBC that “the civilian population is going to face one of the worst famines that has ever been witnessed in South Sudan” and appealed to Machar for an end to the conflict.
“We have to stop this fighting so that we save the people’s lives,” Kiir said in the interview, first broadcast on Monday, adding aid must be allowed to reach civilians.
Both sides have blamed the other for violating two ceasefire deals agreed since the conflict first erupted in mid-December.
Thousands have died in the increasingly ethnic violence, often pitting Kiir’s Dinka people against Machar’s Nuer. The two men, under regional and Western pressure to end the conflict, signed a second ceasefire deal earlier this month.