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Oslo pledges South Sudan aid ahead of donor conference


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Photo - AFP

Oslo: Norway announced a $63 million aid package to South Sudan on Monday, the eve of an Oslo conference to raise money for desperately needed humanitarian assistance in the conflict-torn country.

The United Nations has warned of a widespread famine in South Sudan if fighting between the government and rebel groups does not stop.

It says 3.7 million people -- more than a third of the population -- are at risk of starvation in the world's youngest nation, where has thousands of people have been killed and more than 1.2 million forced to leave their homes.

"We fear that the crisis will worsen in the next months," said Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende in a statement as Oslo announced the $63 million (46 million euro) package.

The UN says it needs $1.8 billion to fund humanitarian aid through to the end of March 2015, and only $536 million has been secured so far.

"If the conflict continues, half of South Sudan's 12 million people will either be displaced internally, refugees abroad, starving or dead by the year's end," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said last week.

Norway, which sent $17 million to South Sudan at the beginning of the year, will on Tuesday host a conference to try to raise funds and find ways to improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance there.

The event will be co-chaired by Brende and UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.

"Tens of thousands of people have already died in South Sudan even if they still haven't taken their last breath," said Liv Toerres, head of the non-governmental organisation Norwegian People's Aid.

"It's a terrible thing to say, but that does not make it any less true. For many it's already too late. There isn't enough food produced and stored away before the rainy season begins."

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