Famine has joined the woes of war-ravaged South Sudan, further compounding the troubles of the young African nation.
Parts of the country are suffering famine, a government official said , adding nearly half the country’s population would lack reliable access to affordable food by July.
South Sudan has been mired in civil war since 2013, when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy. Since then the conflict has increasingly split the country along ethnic lines, leading the United Nations to warn of a potential genocide.
The fighting has uprooted more than 3 million people and a U.N. report released on Monday said continuing displacement presented “heightened risks of prolonged (food) underproduction into 2018”.
South Sudan is rich in oil resources. But, six years after independence from neighbouring Sudan, there are only 200 km (120 miles) of paved roads in a nation the size of Texas. In the fighting, food warehouses have been looted and aid workers killed.
Kiir’s government has been hit by high-profile defections. Two top military officials resigned their positions last week, citing ethnic favouritism, human rights abuses and other charges.
Brigadier General Kamila Otwari Aleardo Paul, who had been in charge of logistic support in the military, also resigned on Monday, accusing the government of tribalism.
Lul Ruai Koang, spokesman for the armed forces, said the three defections would not hamper the operations of the military.
“The military is not a one-man show,” he told a news conference, adding it was not clear which country in the region the military officials had gone to.
Punishments handed out to some soldiers from the Dinka, Kiir’s tribe, for crimes including rape and murder were being set aside, said Colonel Khalid Ono Loki, one of officials who resigned. The minister of labour has also defected to the rebels.