The South Sudanese government is preventing aid reaching hundreds of thousands of people threatened by famine, the UN said Tuesday.
Herve Ladsous, UN under-secretary general for peacekeeping operations, told a news conference in the capital Juba that the government was preventing UN troops from protecting the local population and distributing aid.
“We are being prevented by the government from deploying UNMISS [UN Mission in South Sudan] troops in the famine-affected areas, especially in Unity state,” he said during a two-day visit.
Ladsous said UN forces had been attacked by the warring parties and “prevented from accessing vulnerable people who are in need of protection due to the recently declared famine in part of Unity state.”
He added: “South Sudan’s leaders have inflicted a massive humanitarian crisis on the population threatened by a famine.”
The French diplomat added that a cease-fire between government forces and rebels was essential.
There is an estimated 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan but it has been prevented from helping civilians in the famine-hit Upper Nile and Unity states because it has been targeted by both sides.
Earlier this month, President Salva Kiir granted access for humanitarian agencies and peacekeepers in the areas struck by famine but they still face restrictions.
In February, the UN declared a famine in South Sudan and said 100,000 people were at risk of starvation. It added that 5.5 million people -- more than 40 percent of the population -- was in need of urgent food.
Ladsous said a regional protection force would soon be deployed in Juba.
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