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Famine, conflict risks confront South Sudan: UN.

Summary: South Sudan could face famine following low rainfall and a surge in tribal conflicts, the United Nations children's agency UNICEF said on Sunday.

U.N. officials earlier this year said at

South Sudan could face famine following low rainfall and a surge in tribal conflicts, the United Nations children's agency UNICEF said on Sunday.

U.N. officials earlier this year said at least 1.2 million people in the underdeveloped region could be left without enough food after a poor start to the rainy season.

On Sunday senior UNICEF staff said there were now fears of an even greater emergency after poor rainfall at the end of the rainy season in October and the beginning of November. "Here the crisis is going to hit very hard, we're just seeing the beginning of it at the moment," UNICEF's deputy executive director Hilde Johnson told journalists on a visit to the south's oil-producing Jonglei state.

"If we are not able to handle the situation well ... we can expect very, very significant levels (of hunger) which can border on the red flag emergency which becomes a famine," she said.

Poor rains

The dry season is just beginning in the south, but people are already hungry with the failure of harvests, and the situation is expected to worsen in coming months as the few reserves of food are used up.

Poor rains in recent weeks mean that local cattle herders are expected to begin shifting their herds soon to find fresh pastures and water, bringing them into conflict with rival ethnic groups in the region.

Johnson added an increase in tribal fighting had driven many families away from their homes and sparse crops, leaving them even more vulnerable.

Johnson and other UNICEF officials visited a therapeutic feeding center in Bor, the capital of Jonglei, where babies with swollen bellies and clearly protruding ribs and backbones were fed a fortified peanut paste.

About 2,000 people are thought to have died in a surge of tribal clashes this year in the south, particularly around neighboring Jonglei and Upper Nile states.

Upper Nile governor Gatluak Deng Garang, told reporters on the trip tensions were mounting again in the area on news that members of the Lou Nuer tribe were planning to enter the lush Sobat river area that belongs to their long-term enemies, the Jikany Nuer.

"If they come with their arms there will be another conflict," he said.

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) began last week to air-drop food for some 155,600 people in the south on Nov. 5, to the three states of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Warrap.

The two-and-a-half-month airlift is dropping supplies to remote communities where roads are blocked by rains, and where conflict, high food prices and poor harvests because of drought have left people struggling for food.

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Publication:Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia)
Date:Nov 8, 2009
Words:479
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