NAIROBI, Kenya — More than 1 million people in South Sudan have fled their homes at a crucial time of the year: planting season. Famine, aid officials say, could be the result, and the U.N.'s top official for human rights said Wednesday she is appalled by the apparent lack of concern by the country's two warring leaders that mass hunger looms.
"If famine does take hold later in the year — and the humanitarian agencies are deeply fearful that it will — responsibility for it will lie squarely with the country's leaders, who agreed to a cessation of hostilities in January and then failed to observe it themselves," said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navy Pillay, referring to South Sudan's president and the former vice president.
UNICEF is warning that up to 50,000 children could die of malnutrition this year.
South Sudan is on "the verge of catastrophe," Pillay said. The country could see genocide, said Adama Dieng, U.N. envoy for the prevention of genocide.
In a sign of how gravely the United States views the spiraling violence in the world's newest country, Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Juba, the capital, this week as part of a multi-country trip through Africa. He said the U.S. government is closely considering levying sanctions against South Sudan's leaders, whom Kerry said are pursuing oil, money and power.