Speed Reads

This is terrible

South Sudan is at high risk for the worst famine in Africa since the 1980s

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The United Nations is warning that if significant aid is not given to South Sudan within the next two months, the country will experience the worst famine in Africa since the 1980s.

Roughly 3.7 million people, or almost one-third of the total population, are currently at severe risk of starvation, U.N. officials say. South Sudan needs water, food, seeds, and farming tools. It's a race against time, as planting season ends in May.

"If we miss the planting season, there will be a catastrophic decline in food security," says Toby Lanzer, the U.N.'s humanitarian aid coordinator for South Sudan. "What will strike that country, and it will hit about seven million people, will be more grave than anything that continent has seen since the mid-1980s."

There is also a lack of political and economic stability in South Sudan, due to fighting that has been ongoing since December; oil production has been cut by half, towns have been destroyed, and trade has been interrupted. Although the United Nations has asked for $1.27 billion to attempt to quell the crisis, only $385 million has come in so far. Lanzer says he believes this is because "it's hard to compete with Syria and Ukraine."