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13 Die of Hunger in South Sudan State

A four-year-old Sudanese boy lies on the ground after collapsing from hunger at a feeding centre in Rumbek, May 25, 2005. Thirteen people have died of hunger after crops failed in Eastern Equatoria state.

At least 13 people have died of hunger and hundreds of thousands more are facing food shortages in Eastern Equatoria state in South Sudan, a county commissioner in the area said.

The food shortages hit the three southeastern counties that make up Greater Kapoeta a month ago. More than 600,000 people live in the area and nearly all of them are short of food, said Kapoeta South County Commissioner Martin Ngoya, who, along with residents in the stricken area, blamed the food shortages on crop failure.

It was not the first time crops failed in Greater Kapoeta and unless farmers can be convinced to change their agricultural practices, it won't be the last, Ngoya warned.

”Crops failed last season (too).... According to the experts, the scenario will continue for the next five years if people cultivate in the same places in the next cultivation seasons," he said.

The area has experienced inconsistent rainfall and a disease that eats the roots of crops. Pio Lowi, a resident of Kapoeta, said people were in need of immediate assistance.

"There is a big hunger in Kapoeta and many people died and are still dying. There is a need for food in order to support the people to cultivate," Lowi said.

South Sudan’s ministry for humanitarian affairs and disaster management put out an appeal earlier this year for $1.2 billion to cover the area’s food deficit. Only one-third of that appeal has been met.

Over the weekend, government officials from Central Equatoria distributed 53,000 South Sudanese pounds’ worth – more than thirteen thousand U.S. dollars -- of food in Greater Kapoeta. The emergency supplies were intended for half a million people and included flour, oil and salt.

The World Food Program said in a report released last month that more than four million people in South Sudan are expected to go hungry at some point this year.