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UN needs $1.4 billion in help for South Sudanese refugees

The UN has appealed for more funding to help nearly two million people who have fled South Sudan. A World Food Programme (WFP) official called their suffering "unimaginable."

The UN requested on Monday $1.4 billion (1.3 billion euros) for 2017 alone to aid the nearly two million people who have fled violence and hunger in South Sudan.

The African country was plunged into civil war at the end of 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup. Since then, 1.8 million people have been forced to leave their homes to neighboring countries Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Congo and the Central African Republic. Children have been hit especially hard by the conflict, and they make up 62 percent of refugees.

Äthiopien Addis Abeba Salva Kiir Mayardit und Hailemariam Desalegn (Getty Images/AFP/Z. Abubeker)

President Salva Kiir seen during a visit to Ethiopia

An additional two million people have been internally displaced. Some 100,000 people are suffering from famine in the country, and millions more are dependent on food aid.

The UN and its food-assistance branch, the World Food Programme (WFP), had originally requested $1.2 billion but revised the appeal after deciding the amount would not be enough. WFP Executive Director David Beasley, a long-time member of the US Republican Party and former governer of South Carolina, called the suffering "just unimaginable."

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The world's fastest-growing refugee crisis

"They are close to the abyss. Violence is at the root of this crisis. Aid workers often cannot reach the most vulnerable hungry people. Many are dying from hunger and disease, many more have fled their homeland for safety abroad," Beasley said.

The UN said the rate of people fleeing the country has increased, with the number fleeing to neighboring Sudan in March exceeding the expected number for the whole year.

Neighboring Uganda has had to contend with the largest number of refugees - there are now nearly 900,000 South Sudanese refugees there. Beasley said the WFP's funding situation had forced the organization to cut food aid for many of those in Uganda.

He urged donors not to get distracted with other issues and to do more to help those from South Sudan in need. "Everybody's talking about Trump, Trump, Trump or Brexit, Brexit, Brexit...and people aren't receiving the normal information they receive on international crises," he said. "We've got to break through all of the smoke."

blc/jm (AFP, dpa)

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