War-torn South Sudan is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, with 2.8 million people – nearly a quarter of the population – in urgent need of food aid, UN agencies said Monday.

At least 40,000 people are on the brink of catastrophe, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN children’s fund UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP).

As the dry season nears, displaced people in northern Unity State are running out of the fish and water lilies they have subsisted on, the agencies reported.

Livestock raiding has, meanwhile, robbed many people of milk and meat.

Fighting has prevented farming in South Sudan, where a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, turned into a military conflict in December 2013.

A peace deal signed in August has stopped most of the fighting between the main warring parties, but militias also operate in the country.

“It is not only areas directly affected by conflict that are food insecure," said Serge Tissot, acting FAO representative to South Sudan.

"Some 200,000 people in Northern Bahr El Ghazal and Warrap states have also seen their access to food deteriorate, owing to factors such as price inflation and market disruptions that are tied to the conflict," he added.

“Many of the areas where the needs are greatest are out of reach because of the security situation," said Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF representative in South Sudan.

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