South Sudanese villagers are eating leaves from trees and precious seed stocks as food runs out in areas where famine has not been declared, a humanitarian aid group said Monday.
The Norwegian Refugee Council said villages outside Aweil Center County in the north of the country were on the brink of famine, which was declared in February in two counties to the east.
“Eating barely edible wild foods is a coping strategy for communities trying to survive a food crisis,” said NRC’s South Sudan country director Rehana Zawar.
“The bitter leaves eaten by families we spoke to are from the Lalop tree, and have limited nutritional value. When families eat these leaves and little else, malnutrition quickly follows.”
Some 100,000 people are already in a state of famine in the counties of Leer and Mayendit, and aid agencies have warned another one million are at risk in the coming months.
“About 40 percent of the people in Amothic are eating tree leaves. About half of the village are eating their seed stocks too,” said Deng Yel Piol, 48, the chief of the village in Aweil Center, cited in the NRC statement.
According to the NRC, the consumption of seeds is particularly alarming in the farming community, which will have few to plant in the next growing season.—AFP