JUBA, Oct.16 (Xinhua) -- Three UN agencies on Wednesday called for increased efforts to end hunger and boost access to affordable and healthy diets in South Sudan.
In joint statement issued in Juba to mark the World Food Day, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) urged stakeholders to step up efforts to end hunger and malnutrition and to ensure food security in the East African country where some 6.3 million people are threatened by hunger.
Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan, said many people continue to suffer hunger and malnutrition despite the country is fertile.
"Zero Hunger is not just about addressing hunger, but also nourishing people while nurturing the planet. Far too many South Sudanese don't have the option to access healthy and nutritious foods in an extremely fertile country, blessed with natural resources and rich in local nutritious food," said Meshack Malo.
"We need to act fast and make sure South Sudan produces its own healthy food utilizing its full production potential so that more people can live healthier lives."
In its latest state of the World's Children report released on Tuesday, UNICEF warned of alarming prevalence of acute malnutrition in South Sudan as some 1.3 million children, 16 percent of the country's children aged below five will face acute malnutrition next year.
"Every child has the right to a healthy life and therefore every effort in preventing malnutrition needs to be taken," said Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan.
"There is a need to combine both treatment and prevention activities to combat malnutrition and healthy diets are crucial to bringing the much-needed change."
South Sudan descended into conflict in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir sacked his deputy Riek Machar leading to fighting between soldiers loyal to both leaders. The conflict killed tens of thousands and displaced more than four million people both internally and externally.
A peace deal signed in 2015 collapsed after an outbreak of renewed violence in July 2016, forcing Machar to flee the capital. A new unity government is set to be formed next month as part of a September 2018 peace agreement.
"Conflict is the most destructive of all the factors affecting food stability in the country, disrupting livelihoods and increasing displacement," said Mary-Ellen Mc Groaty, WFP's acting Country Director in South Sudan.
"A Zero Hunger world starts with a peaceful one. With peace and stability, South Sudan could quickly recover from the crisis, boost agricultural production and access its healthy and nutritious food," she added.
South Sudan's agriculture and food security minister Onyoti Adigo pledged the government's commitment to boost food production in the country and end the ongoing hunger crisis.
"It is time to renew our commitment towards a South Sudan free from hunger and all forms of malnutrition. Safeguarding food security and nutrition of our people is a shared responsibility," Adigo said.