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ROME, Feb 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The United Nations said it was ramping up deliveries of fishing kits to famine-hit areas of South Sudan to help some of the 100,000 people facing imminent starvation in the war-ravaged country.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said it plans to hand out fishing lines, hooks and nets to tens of thousands of families over the next few months, as fighting and a drought have left many with virtually no other source of food.
"Fishery equipment is the best tool for them to catch something to eat quickly," FAO's representative in South Sudan, Serge Tissot, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
The United Nations declared famine last week in parts of South Sudan, with about 5.5 million people expected to have no reliable source of food by July.
The disaster is largely man-made. Oil-rich South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, plunged into civil war in 2013, after President Salva Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar. Since then, the conflict has increasingly split the country along ethnic lines, leading the U.N. to warn of a potential genocide.
The fighting has prevented many farmers from harvesting their crops, and hyperinflation, which reached more than 800 percent last year, has put the price of imported food beyond the reach of many.
Tissot said violence had slowed down the humanitarian response, restricting aid access to some areas.
Armed groups looted about $3 million of aid equipment, including fishing kits, seeds and tools, from the FAO's warehouse in the capital, Juba, in July and it has taken months to replenish stocks, he said.
A new shipment of fishing gear was expected to arrive in the coming weeks, allowing the agency to revamp an emergency distribution, mainly in Unity and Upper Nile states, he added.
FAO said it aimed to hand out some 150,000 kits over the next few months, up from 120,000 delivered in 2016.
The kits could offer a life-saving source of food to many, according to the agency, as some families have been forced to live off weeds and water lilies roots to survive.
"In many locations people are using mosquito nets for fishing. That is very bad for the resources as it's killing the next generation of fish," he said in an interview. (Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)