The youngest country in the world is on the verge of experiencing a deadly famine that could devastate as much as one-third of its population if not dealt with. The country, South Sudan, is trying to avoid what experts are saying could be the most devastating famine in the last 30 years.

The last several months have not be kind to South Sudan, as thousands of people have been displaced from their homes as a result of infighting within the country. Whether it be food shortages or attempts to avoid being killed in the violence that has engulfed the country, like the one million people who have already fled, South Sudan has issues that need to be fixed immediately.

The fighting within South Sudan, which has led to the high risk of a famine, has been a staple within society for the last four months. The fighting was started by a nasty breakup between political leaders in December of 2013.

In July of last year, South Sudan President Salva Kiir fired his vice president, Riek Machar Teny, after President Kiir accused Mr. Teny of setting up a military coup to remove President Kiir from government. Since then, forces who support Machar fled with him to the countryside, while the people who support Kiir stayed with him. Unfortunately, it has turned into an ethnic conflict recently, with each side targeting the opposite ethnic group, and it has shown no signs of slowing down.

This fighting in South Sudan has proved to be a major factor in the rapidly approaching famine. The negative effects of the violence have been far-reaching within the Sudan; farmers could not grow any crops due to all of the violence. Many farmers were displaced from their farms, and many of them were among the 10,000 deaths that already occurred. Without the planting season, there will be no harvest. Since the country has 90 percent of its land that is suitable for agricultural use, agriculture clearly plays a large role in its developing economy.

Given that South Sudan is still developing after gaining statehood just four years ago after its civil war, it does not have the necessary funds to buy its own food. To compound this issue, the end of May begins South Sudan’s rainy season, which would put an end to any hopes of revitalizing crop production. Right now, South Sudan is basically stuck between a rock and a hard place, and the people will have to watch and hope that everything they built up in the last four years does not come crashing down.

They need a lot of help, but the question remains: Is there any way that South Sudan can receive the necessary help?   It is certainly possible, but it needs to be done quickly. The first step in eliminating the risk of a wide-spread famine is to stop the ongoing fighting with the country. If there is any chance for the farmers to grow the necessary crops, they need to have space and safety.

Steps have already been taken, as Kenya’s president said that he will not allow the fighting to continue, much less turn into a genocide. He went as far to say, “We refuse to be witnesses to such atrocities and to remain helpless and hopeless in their wake.” That is the stance that many countries, not only neighboring South Sudan should do.

Additionally, the UN has sent a “rights chief” to go to South Sudan and effectively end the violence. That is definitely a start. The second step is to send sufficient funds into South Sudan in order to feed the malnourished women and children of South Sudan before the number of emaciated people begins to increase. There is a small window for action to take place, and if nothing changes, South Sudan is at risk for a genocide that can displace and kill thousands of people and a famine that can kill everyone else who remains.

[Image Attribute: Flickr European Commission]