South Sudan's food crisis 'worst in the world' - UN

The BBC's Rob Broomby: "The UN says it's the worst food crisis in the world"

South Sudan's food crisis is the worst in the world, the UN Security Council has warned, calling for urgent action.

It said there was a "catastrophic food insecurity" in the country, urging donor nations who pledged $618m (£364m) in aid to make good on their promise.

The UN children's fund, Unicef, said some four million - a third of the population - could be affected.

It said that 50,000 children may die of hunger in the conflict-torn country unless international help increased.

More than a million people have fled their homes since fighting erupted between different factions of South Sudan's ruling party last December.

Thousands have now died in the conflict that started as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar but has since escalated into ethnic violence.

Months of fighting have prevented farmers from planting or harvesting crops, causing food shortages nationwide.

The onset of the rainy season has added to the problem, dashing hopes that displaced farmers plant crops to feed themselves in the future, the BBC's Rob Broomby reports.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, topped the list of fragile states in this year's index released by The Fund for Peace, a leading US-based research institute.

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Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in December 2013. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians' political bases are often ethnic.
News graphic showing the ethnic groups of South Sudan Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Map showing the location of oil fields in South Sudan Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan's budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state - at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
Map showing the geography of South Sudan The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Map showing access to water in South Sudan After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world's newest country - and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water - up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Map showing education levels in South Sudan Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan - however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Map showing food insecurity rates in South Sudan Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).

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