More than 1.2 million people in war-torn South Sudan are one step away from famine - twice as many as at the same time last year - and in early 2018 half the country's population will be reliant on emergency food aid, the UN humanitarian chief said Thursday.
Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council that even though 2 million people fled the country over the past four years, 7 million people inside the country - "almost two-thirds of the remaining population" - still need humanitarian aid."
The next lean season beginning in March is likely to see famine conditions in several locations across the country," Lowcock warned.
"We were able to reverse famine conditions this year - with significant resources and risks - and we must avoid a repeat of this."
For his part, UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix called the security situation in South Sudan "precarious" and warned of escalating military conflict and intercommunal fighting as the dry season sets in.
He cited a resurgence of fighting in southern Unity states in the last two weeks between opposition forces allied to former vice president Riek Machar and current First Vice President Taban Deng.
In addition, he said, conflict-related human rights violations continue, including looting, house burnings, killing of civilians, arbitrary arrests and violence, "with organized forces being implicated as perpetrators in most instances."
Lacroix urged the Security Council "to remain vigilant and exert more effort to condemn and stop the violence, protect civilians and urgently facilitate a political settlement of the conflict."
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team