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UN Warns of Child Deaths and Malnutrition in South Sudan

The United Nations says a famine in South Sudan likely will kill up to 50,000 children this year if more action is not immediately taken.

UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, says an additional quarter-million children will suffer severe acute malnutrition by the end of the year unless treatment is scaled up.

It says the African nation has faced emergency levels of malnutrition since it gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Conditions have worsened since conflict broke out last year between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and supporters of his former deputy, Riek Machar.

UNICEF says more than 3.7 million people in the country are having difficulty finding enough to eat, with many resorting to eating wild foods, such as bulbs and grasses. It says it has so far raised only $4.6 million for its efforts to reach severely malnourished children, and currently needs $38 million.

The recent escalation of tensions in South Sudan erupted in mid-December when the government accused Machar of leading an alleged coup.

Those accusations set off weeks of deadly fighting that has killed thousands of people. The unrest has continued in spite of a cease-fire agreement signed by the government and rebel forces in January.

The United Nations says the fighting has forced about 1 million people to flee their homes. About 200,000 South Sudanese have sought refuge in neighboring countries.