When his stepbrother starved to death in January, Matthew Yaw buried him in the sand next to the family’s shack of sticks and plastic, one more grave at the epicenter of the world’s most severe hunger crisis.

It is a man-made disaster — born not of drought or floods but a vicious conflict that destroyed the livelihoods of farmers like Yaw and then prevented aid workers from entering their villages.

A U.N. declaration of famine in February was supposed to bring a surge of assistance to this northern county. But within days, the South Sudanese government ordered aid workers to leave ahead of a planned offensive, and the area was soon consumed with fighting.

Yaw and his neighbors have been reduced to eating waterlilies and an occasional fish from a nearby river. The few relief workers who managed to visit Mayendit county in recent days saw people languishing half-
naked. Their clothes had been burned in the last attack.

There are now four hunger crises across the Middle East and Africa in what is emerging as the greatest humanitarian disaster since World War II, according to the United Nations.

 

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