August 12, 2009 / 6:28 PM / in 9 years

U.N. says violence, hunger threatens south Sudanese

KHARTOUM, Aug 12 (Reuters) - The lives of at least 40 percent of southern Sudanese are at risk because of escalating tribal fighting, food shortages and a cash-starved regional government, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday.

"Southern Sudan is facing an almost unmanageable set of problems. We just can’t keep up," Lise Grande, the U.N. Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Southern Sudan said.

A semi-autonomous southern government was set up in 2005 as part of a north-south peace deal that ended one of Africa’s longest-running wars over ideology and religion. The south was left devastated and drastically underdeveloped.

Grande called the situation in the south a "humanitarian perfect storm", according to a U.N. transcript of her remarks to a news conference in Khartoum. "At least 40 percent of the population (are) at real risk," she said.

She did not give figures, but according to a census of carried out before next year’s elections, Sudan had a population of 39.15 million, of which 8.26 million live in the south which is mainly Christian and animist. The north is mostly Muslim.

The end of the civil war did not heal scars between rival, armed southern tribes, many of which continue to raid each others’ cattle in bloody attacks that have intensified this year into revenge massacres with huge death tolls.

Southern politicians have warned increased violence bodes badly for the 2010 elections and a referendum on southern secession in 2011.

Analysts say implementing the polls in the south will be challenge, not least because of its poor infrastructure.

Grande mentioned four tribal attacks in which 950 people have died. She also said the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was still killing people close to the south’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Since late 2008, over 230,000 have been internally displaced as a result of the LRA more than 25,000 people have entered southern Sudan as refugees," she said warning that further displacement was likely from continued fighting.

Grande also warned that 1.2 million people in the south are facing a food deficit and would need assistance this year from already-overstretched agencies. She blamed late rains, insecurity and high prices for the gap.

She said the government of south Sudan had had to slash its spending. The regional government relies on oil for most of its revenues and the price of crude has tumbled since last year, although it has regained some ground in recent weeks. (Reporting by Skye Wheeler; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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