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UN Makes Urgent Appeal for South Sudan Food Aid

The United Nations launched an urgent appeal on Tuesday calling for emergency assistance for the millions of Southern Sudanese who are facing staggering levels of food insecurity.

The World Food Program estimates that around 4.7 million people in South Sudan are in need of food assistance with an estimated 1 million people set to suffer from food insecurity in 2012, and another 3.7 million people likely to face significant vulnerabilities to food insecurity.

"There are food shortages, there is conflict related displacements, there is agricultural disruption, the economy is deteriorating and the borders have been closed. You add up all that and that is why we have the kind of situation that we are in," UN Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Lisa Grande, told reporters on Tuesday regarding the situation in South Sudan.

Thus far, the United Nations has received only a third of the $800 million it pleaded for in December 2011 to go toward providing humanitarian assistance to the country. On Tuesday, the international body pleaded with the international community to give an additional $505 million to fund the ongoing humanitarian operations in the country.

The emergency assistance plea came one day after an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 South Sudanese began to leave Khartoum for Juba after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir referred to southerners in the north as a security threat and demanded that they leave the country. U.N. and International Organization for Migration officials have organized a barrage of flights over the next two weeks to Juba, but hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese remain in the north and face an uncertain future.

South Sudan became an independent country following a 2005 peace accord brokered by then U.S. President George W. Bush, which ended decades of civil strife between Sudan and South Sudan. Under the deal, a referendum was held in January 2011 where over 90 percent of Southern Sudanese voters voted to break up the largest country in Africa and establish the Republic of South Sudan.

But in its near-year of independence, many fear that the country is on the brink of calamity with the ensuing food crisis, severe underdevelopment, multiple outbreaks of inter-ethnic strife, displacement, and a daily influx of refugees pouring in from the north.

Furthermore, in recent weeks clashes between Sudan and South Sudan along the disputed border over oil fields, citizenship rights, and financial arrangements are pointing to the high probability of another all-out war between the two countries.

"The scope of the humanitarian operation in South Sudan is enormous. We must meet our commitments to the people of South Sudan as we approach the first anniversary of independence," Grade told reporters on Tuesday.

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