London - Helicopters have delivered life-saving supplies to thousands of people uprooted by fighting in South Sudan to help them survive the lean season, aid agencies said on Tuesday ahead of a pledging conference for the conflict-hit country.
Recent violence in the greater Upper Nile region has forced some 150 000 people to flee to hard-to-reach areas, with many abandoning their land before they could plant crops, according to UN agencies and aid groups.
Survival kits have been delivered to some 30 000 people in Unity State in the north. They include mosquito nets, fishing supplies, water purification tablets and nutritional biscuits for children.
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The number of South Sudanese going hungry - some 4.6 million people including nearly a million children under five - has almost doubled since the start of the year.
"Hundreds of thousands of children are malnourished, at risk of disease and death, yet they are the future doctors, lawyers, civil servants and community leaders of South Sudan," said Ronald-Paul Veilleux, International Rescue Committee country director.
Further risk of violence
"Not getting aid to them in time further undermines the development potential of this nation," he said in a statement ahead of the Geneva pledging conference in which international agencies are appealing for $1.63bn.
More than 2 million people have been uprooted since fighting erupted 18 months ago between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels allied with his former deputy, Riek Machar.
Heavy fighting in Unity and Upper Nile states has forced aid agencies to suspend activities and in some cases relocate staff, leaving tens of thousands of people vulnerable.
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The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said it was working to ensure the delivery of supplies would not put relief workers and those in need of aid at further risk of violence.
For many displaced communities, the survival kits could be the only aid they receive during the next few weeks of the annual lean season, according to the agencies.
Only 36% of the South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan 2015 - $656m - has been funded to date, according to the United Nations.