Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

'Famine looming' in South Sudan

Ewan McGregor has warned "famine is looming" in South Sudan (Unicef)

Hollywood star Ewan McGregor has warned "famine is looming" in South Sudan, putting tens of thousands of children at risk of starvation.

The Star Wars actor, who is UK ambassador for relief charity Unicef, said that babies born into hope after the country achieved independence in 2011 were now facing desperate circumstances after months of bitter fighting that has ripped through the young nation.

Unicef has warned that parts of South Sudan could slip into famine as early as next month as it faces a triple emergency of famine, fighting and disease on the third anniversary of its independence.

McGregor made an an appeal for aid, as Unicef has only raised a third of the almost £89 million it says it needs to help the country's children.

He said: "In July 2011 babies were born into incredible hope in South Sudan, as the country declared independence and was celebrated as the world's newest nation.

"Now, three years on, the outlook for these same children has taken a dramatic and desperate turn.

"Famine is looming. Children are already dying every day of hunger and of diseases like cholera."

In May the Government pledged a £60 million emergency aid package to help those caught up in the country's unfolding humanitarian crisis following the outbreak of fighting in December 2013.

Unicef said more than half a million children have fled their homes since fighting began, with 250,000 under fives at risk of severe malnutrition.

It warned that cholera is spreading - with hundreds of cases in the capital, Juba, and other areas across the country, with dozens of deaths.

Unicef said the number of people fleeing to the Bentiu protection of civilians (PoC) site in Unity State has gone up more than five-fold in less than three months.

Three children under five are dying there every day with heavy rains exacerbating unsanitary conditions, a lack of clean water and sanitation, acute overcrowding, and children arriving already desperately malnourished and ill.

McGregor added: "Too many children in South Sudan have empty stomachs and increasingly empty futures."

"We need to help those children now, before it is simply too late."

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