Aid agencies are calling on all sides in the South Sudan crisis to give them better access to the thousands of people in need of aid.

At least 355,000 people have been left displaced since the fighting between the South Sudanese government and rebel forces started.

United Nations food agencies are ramping up their relief efforts and warn that the fighting threatens to increase hunger and unravel the modest gains made in food security in the two years since the country seceded from Sudan.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) say a major concern is the displacement of some 355,000 people driven from their homes.

The fighting threw into turmoil the agricultural sector at a time when preparations should be underway for plantings or harvests, “generating an alarming risk of food insecurity and malnutrition,” said FAO country representative Sue Lautze.

“Timing is everything. There are fish in the rivers now, pastoralists are trying to protect their herds and the planting season for maize, groundnut and sorghum starts in March.”

The organisation says some 4.4 million people (out of a total of some 11 million) were already estimated to be facing food insecurity in South Sudan in 2014.

FAO Emergency and Rehabilitation Division Director Dominique Burgeon said at the agency’s headquarters in Rome. “Of those, 830 000 were facing acute food insecurity.”

The organisation’s priorities include restoring the animal health system by rebuilding the cold chain needed to store and transport vaccines, reviving community-based animal health networks, increasing access to seeds and micro-irrigation equipment, support for fishing, and promoting the efficient use of fuels by internally displaced persons (IDPs).

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