ADDIS ABABA — The international community is warning South Sudan faces a possible famine if the conflict there is not quickly brought to an end.
South Sudan's government and rebel forces signed a cessation of hostilities agreement in January, but fighting continues, and peace talks in Addis Ababa have made little progress.
U.S. special envoy Donald Booth expressed his concerns about the situation Thursday during the extraordinary summit of the East African bloc IGAD, which has been mediating the peace talks between South Sudan's warring factions.
Booth says there is deep disappointment that neither side is respecting the cease-fire.
“This failure has led to thousands of additional deaths, and an ever worsening humanitarian situation, with South Sudan facing a possible famine,” Booth said.
The rainy season is approaching in South Sudan, but many fields remain unplanted because people have been chased from their homes and are afraid of being attacked if they return.
Eight-five percent of South Sudanese households are believed to be engaged in pastoral farming and depend on livestock and agriculture.
With the rainy season just weeks away, European Union special envoy to the Horn of Africa Alexander Rondos says urgency is needed to avoid a famine.
“If people cannot go and plant, there will be not sufficient stocks within months," Rondos said. "Livestock, a large proportion of the livestock population of a country populated by so many people who have pastoralist economy is lost. It is absolutely essential that all the necessary steps are made.”
The fighting in South Sudan, between forces of the president and his former vice president, has left tens of thousands of people dead and displaced nearly a million.