by Denis Elamu
JUBA, May 20 (Xinhua) -- The UN on Saturday sounded alarm over the spreading food insecurity and malnutrition across South Sudan amid protection crisis.
Guiomar Pau Sole, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Xinhua that the most critical sectors for the famine response are not only food security and livelihoods, but also nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and protection.
"Beyond the 100,000 people affected by famine, we are deeply alarmed by the protection crisis and spreading food insecurity and malnutrition across the country. We still need nearly 900 million U.S. dollars to tackle famine and the other live-saving needs across the country," Sole said.
Sole added that since localized famine was declared on Feb. 20 in Leer and Mayendit counties in Unity, humanitarian agencies have scaled up their response in a variety of key sectors.
General food distributions have reached more than 320,000 people in 15 locations in Koch, Mayendit, Leer and Panyijiar counties, and rapid response missions have been carried out in at least 17 locations.
However, the UN official regretted that the humanitarian workers in this country are always under attack from the warring factions especially in the northern Unity state.
"We continue to be hampered by conflict, insecurity and access challenges. All parties to the conflict must ensure that the operating environment is conducive to the delivery of aid by ensuring free, safe and unhindered access to all areas, especially to avert the spread of famine," Sole disclosed.
The UN estimates that about 82 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since the onset of the December 2013 conflict.
Humanitarian agencies have faced repeated challenges to reach people in dire need in famine-affected and at-risk areas as a result of clashes, insecurity and access denials, she explained.
"Just last week, there was an attack in Luom, Mayendit County, were an inter-agency team was deployed to deliver nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene, and protection services, as well as household items, seeds and fishing kits. Aid workers had to be relocated from the area, and civilians were attacked, with reports of homes and properties burned and destroyed," Sole noted.
"This highlights the precarious security situation in Unity, which remains one of the most challenging operating environments in South Sudan. We constantly have to balance potential risks to civilians and aid workers against the humanitarian imperative to save lives," she said.