A famine has been declared in parts of South Sudan, the first to be announced in any part of the world in six years.
The government and the United Nations report that some one lakh people are facing starvation, with a million more on the brink of famine.
A combination of civil war and an economic collapse have been blamed. There have been warnings of famine in Yemen, Somalia and north-eastern Nigeria, but South Sudan is the first to declare one.
The famine is currently affecting parts of to Unity state in South Sudan, but humanitarian groups have warned that the crisis could spread if urgent help is not received.
4.9 million people – more than 40 per cent of South Sudan’s population – are in urgent need of food.
According to UN, a famine is declared only when certain measures of mortality, malnutrition and hunger are met. They are:
1. at least 20% of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope
2. acute malnutrition rates exceed 30%
3. the death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons
The declaration of a famine carries no binding obligations on the UN or member states, but serves to focus global attention on the problem.