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Mounting fears for children in Sudan food crisis

Thousands of hungry families are being forced to leave their homes in Sudan and spend days walking to reach an area that is already seriously short of food. As many as 14,000 members of the Lou Nuer ethnic community have been forced out of the Upper Nile because local officials say they don't have residency rights after local boundaries were redrawn.  The neighbouring Jonglei area where they're arriving is already coping with more than 20,000 people uprooted by fighting last year and aid agencies say the latest influx is piling massive pressure on people whose crops have already failed.

Aid workers earlier this year, called Akobo county the ‘hungriest’ place on earth. Food there is in very short supply. Even though the rains have arrived in Sudan, the next harvest is still months away. About one in 1o children in the region are so badly malnourished they are at serious risk of dying. Aid group, Save the Children has taken 600 children there into its intensive feeding programme. And now thousands more people are arriving in the area. “This is one of the most serious situations that we've seen in south Sudan this year,” said Kate Foster of Save the Children.

The Lou Nuer were told to leave the Upper Nile last Wednesday they and now have come, with the few possessions they can carry, to live with relatives. Their arrival is stretching already meagre resources to breaking point, says Ms Foster. "I think this is one of the most serious situations that we've seen in south Sudan this year," she told the BBC. "The situation in the south Sudan was so bad already, particularly for children, and the lack of food that's available to them. "It's really just going to be a very serious situation that will be compounded even further."  “Malnutrition levels are already at lethal levels and hunger will only increase, as the next crop isn’t due until August and families are nearing the end of their food supplies.”

More than 45 per cent of children under five are suffering malnutrition in South Sudan, according to figures from Save the Children. On Thursday, the United Nations warned that worsening security in Sudan's Darfur region was forcing aid agencies to cut or suspend some relief programmes. It came two days after armed raiders abducted two German men working with humanitarian groups in the capital of South Darfur state, Nyala, and three days after attackers shot dead three Rwandan peacekeepers in the centre of the region.

Hayley attribution