Oxfam have called for action to prevent millions of people in South Sudan being hit by a deadly famine.
The warning comes after a report from theFamine Early Warning Network (FEWSNET) was released claiminga fifth of households in the South Sudanese town of Piborcould already be classed as hitting famine levels of hunger.
Communities in the area have suffered through four years of warfare which have depleted food stocks, preventing households from stockpiling food for times of hardship.
People in the region have been forced to eat grass and weeds to stave off hunger, causing them to fall ill.
Food availability has plummeted in Pibor, which sits in Boma state in the east of the country, after pests and flooding destroyed harvests. Bomaalso sees frequent and violent cattle raids from neighbouring states.
As the rainy season sets in, much of the food people depend on has to be flown in from Juba, however this sustenance is unaffordable for many.
South Sudan was hit by a severe hunger crisis in 2017 with Leer and Mayendit declared in famine. Aid efforts averted an even greater catastrophe, however with this year’s harvest not due until at least July, South Sudan is facing crisis again.
Nicolo Di Marzo, Oxfam’s acting country director in South Sudan, said:Waiting for a formal declaration of famine is not good enough. People are already starving and desperate.
“A woman in Pibor said that her family have resorted to cooking grasses and weeds that are making them sick but that they have no choice if they want to survive.
Aid efforts have so far kept famine at bay, but the need is growing at such an alarming rate that Oxfam and other aid organisations are struggling to keep up. We are seeing similarly worrying trends across the country.
“This is not an isolated problem. Urgent action is needed now to save lives in Pibor and across South Sudan.