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Saturday, May 23, 1998 Published at 06:33 GMT 07:33 UK

World: Africa

Sudan plight 'greater than first thought'
image: [ Families in Sudan are dying of malnutrition ]
Families in Sudan are dying of malnutrition

The United Nations World Food Programme has said the number of people in need of food aid in southern Sudan is much higher than previously thought, with one million potentially at risk.

The agency says it plans to target nearly 600,000 people in the worst-affected province, Bahr el-Ghazal, a 40% increase on its current programme.

It brings the total number of people requiring humanitarian aid in southern Sudan to just under one million.

Earlier this week, aid agencies warned that an increase in fighting between government troops and southern rebels was hampering their efforts to avert a threatened famine.

BBC correspondent George Alagiah, who visited one town in the area, said he had witnessed more hardship than he cared to remember.

The famine has been caused by a combination of years of civil war and several seasons with no harvest.

Villagers who should be planting seeds are instead burying their dead.

The correspondent said that when a people were this weak, the margin between hunger and disease became blurred.

The debate over whether to call the situation a famine or not seemed meaningless.


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