Weeks after the outbreak of deadly fighting in South Sudan, aid groups say their movement is being restricted by continued violence and government checkpoints, harming their ability to get food and medicine to severely malnourished children.
“We already have an extremely serious food-insecurity crisis,” said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien in an interview. “And there are many circumstances where, appallingly, this only gets worse.”
During the intense July clashes, South Sudanese government forces looted a UN warehouse where food for 220,000 needy people was kept, according to UN officials.
Humanitarian groups have reported that in parts of the country their access is limited by government checkpoints or continued fighting. Just outside the city of Wau, for example, aid workers have not been able to provide for civilian populations because of the violence.
South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, when a split between president Salva Kiir and vice-president Riek Machar spurred a brutal conflict that was waged largely along tribal lines. In April, Mr Machar returned to his post as part of an internationally brokered peace deal. That appears to have crumbled recently.
Hundreds of people were killed in the fighting last month, according to the United Nations.
Now, the international community is once again trying to reconcile the warring factions – while simultaneously attempting to contain a growing humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations estimates that as many as 4.8 million people in the country face severe food shortages. It has so far been able to assist only 2.8 million.
“Humanitarian needs – including health care, access to safe drinking water and shelter – are higher in South Sudan than any other year since the conflict began,” said Ashley McLaughlin, a spokeswoman in South Sudan for the International Organisation for Migration.