UN: FAMINE LOOMS IN SOUTH SUDAN AS WAR THREATENS HARVEST

GENEVA, -- Famine may be looming in South Sudan, where people are fleeing fighting and leaving their crops to rot in the fields, the UN World Food Programme said on Friday.

Malnutrition is already above the 15 percent "emergency" level in seven out of South Sudan's 10 states, and about 30 percent in two of them - Unity and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said.

"Up to 4 million people - over a third of the population in South Sudan - are severely food-insecure, meaning a third of the country doesn't know where the next meal is coming from," she said. "The current level of malnutrition is unprecedented."

Widespread fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir's and to his former deputy, Riek Machar, means people cannot move around to harvest crops or to get to the market.

In addition, many roads are impassable anyway during the rainy season, so WFP is conducting air drops and air deliveries.

One U.N. aid convoy of 38 trucks, carrying food for 52,000 people for a month, did reach the town of Yei on Friday.

Over 1 million refugees have streamed out of the country, nine-tenths of them women and children.

"Their reported reasons for fleeing to Uganda include alleged arbitrary killings, forced recruitment of boys and men by armed groups, continued conflict in towns and villages, food insecurity and lack of services," the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said in a report.

Many arriving in Uganda come from the Equatoria regions, traditionally South Sudan's breadbasket but now the scene of looting and hyperinflation, Luescher said.

UNHCR's US$251 million South Sudan refugee plan has so far received only US$48.5 million, and in August rations were cut for 200,000 refugees.

On the political front, the United Nations voiced concern on Friday for the safety of a top aide to South Sudanese former vice president Riek Machar after he was extradited to his homeland from Kenya, where he had been granted refugee status.

South Sudan's 2015 peace accord unravelled three months ago when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and to estranged ex-deputy Machar battled each other on the streets of Juba for several days. Machar subsequently fled South Sudan and has since been replaced as vice president although he has exhorted his supporters to reorganise for an armed struggle.

Machar's spokesman James Gatdet Dak also fled the country, finding sanctuary in Kenya, but police collected him from his Nairobi home on Wednesday and put him on a flight to South Sudan's capital Juba the next day, officials said.

"He was deported from Nairobi by the Kenyan authorities and received by the South Sudanese government authorities," presidential spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny told Radio Tamazuj, a South Sudanese radio station based abroad.

A Kenyan government source confirmed Gatdet Dak's extradition but did not explain the legal grounds for it.

UNHCR said it had unsuccessfully urged Kenyan authorities not to extradite Gatdet Dak. Kenya has taken part in African Union mediation to end the South Sudanese conflict and President Uhuru Kenyatta recently visited Juba for talks with Kiir.

Source: Nam News Network.

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