0553 GMT October 17, 2021
The food crisis in the world's youngest country was one of the key issues being discussed at this week's World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, which had brought together the continent's business and political elite, AFP reported.
Saira Khan, the chief executive of the charity Stop Hunger Now Southern Africa, warned that a chaotic international response to the situation in South Sudan was threatening the lives of millions.
"It's pretty gloomy. We're seeing a lot of confusion amongst the NGOs and governments in terms of what needs to be done," she said.
"It's a difficult time for that region – and if we don't do anything we're going to have six million people dead at the end of this year because of famine."
In February, South Sudan and the United Nations formally declared a famine in some parts of the northern Greater Unity region affecting 100,000 people, a disaster UN officials said was "man-made" and could have been averted.
After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, the country descended into civil war in December 2013 when a power struggle erupted between the country's president and his former deputy. Tens of thousands died and more than 3.5 million have been displaced.
"The real instability in the area with the war and migrants just going and settling where they can has contributed to this and put enormous pressure on Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda," Khan said.
Oxfam International's executive director Winnie Byanyima told AFP that a huge funding shortfall for relief efforts was threatening lives.
The UN has estimated that $4.4 billion is needed by July to avoid widespread loss of life in South Sudan – but just 26 percent of that has been raised so far.
More than 1.9 million people are internally displaced and at least 1.7 million have fled to safety across the country's borders so far. A total of 830,000 South Sudanese refugees have fled to neighboring Uganda and the UN expects this figure will reach more than a million by mid-year.
Elsewhere in Africa, Byanyima warned that Nigeria could face its own famine crisis.
"I have just been to northeast Nigeria, a region that has been devastated by Boko Haram [terrorists]," she said. "There are 47,000 people living there in famine-like conditions. Another five million could experience famine in the next few months".
Relief agencies in northern Nigeria will run out of money to avert food shortages as early as June, Peter Lundberg, the UN's deputy humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, said recently.
The World Food Programme says that 4.7 million people across three areas of northeast Nigeria are already facing acute hunger while the Red Cross warns that five children are dying daily of starvation.