In this file photo, refugee mothers from Sudan's Blue Nile State wait at a clinic in South Sudan to have their children measured for malnutrition and to vaccinate them against measles.

JUBA: The UN World Food Programme will suspend food aid to over 100,000 displaced people in South Sudan, as funding shortages force the agency to make "painful decisions", it said yesterday. The cuts will start next month and last until January, affecting 106,000 people living in the capital Juba as well as Bor South county and the town of Wau, WFP said, warning of further reductions unless funding was increased.

"Drastic times call for drastic measures. We are forced to take these painful decisions and stretch our limited resources to meet the critical needs of people," WFP representative and country director Matthew Hollingworth said in a statement. "If funding levels continue to drop, we may have no choice but to make further cuts as the needs of vulnerable communities continue to outpace available resources," he said, with the agency calling for an additional $154 million (131 million euros) in assistance.

The announcement comes shortly after the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA reported that 380,000 people had been affected by heavy flooding, which deluged farmland, submerged homes and displaced families in the impoverished nation. OCHA last month also warned of a funding shortfall, having received only 54 percent of the $1.7 billion required to fund programs in the country. Four out of five of South Sudan's 11 million people live in "absolute poverty", according to the World Bank in 2018, while more than 60 percent of its population suffers from severe hunger from the combined effects of conflict, drought and floods.

Since achieving independence from Sudan in 2011, the young nation has been in the throes of a chronic economic and political crisis, and is struggling to recover from the aftermath of a five-year civil war that left nearly 400,000 people dead. Although a 2018 ceasefire and power-sharing deal between President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar still largely holds, it is being sorely tested, with little progress made in fulfilling the terms of the peace process. - AFP