Conflict and hyperinflation have pushed malnutrition to critical levels that could put many lives at risk in South Sudan, experts warned. Picture: AP Photo, File

Rome - Harvest season is bringing little relief to millions of hungry people in South Sudan as conflict and hyperinflation have pushed malnutrition to critical levels that could put many lives at risk, food security experts warned on Monday.

More than 1.1 million children under five children are forecast to be malnourished in 2018 including nearly 300 000 "at a heightened risk of death", according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

Acute malnutrition rates in nearly one of out five counties in South Sudan are well above the World Health Organization's emergency threshold of 15 percent, said the IPC, whose members include aid agencies and the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme.

"The country's greenbelt has been ravaged by fighting, and finding a peaceful solution to this man-made tragedy should be the top priority or the situation will get even worse next year," Serge Tissot, FAO's representative in South Sudan, said in a statement.

"Many people are just one step before famine," he said at the report's launch Monday.

South Sudan descended into civil war in 2013 after President Salva Kiir fired his deputy, unleashing a conflict that has spawned armed factions which often follow ethnic lines.

The "lean season" - when households run short of food before the next harvest - is forecast to start three months earlier than usual, according to aid agencies.

Food prices have soared, with prices for sacks of staples such as sorghum, maize and wheat flour up by 281 percent compared to the same time last year, it said.

The drawn-out conflict is likely to lead to donor fatigue and "the level of funding is likely to reduce," Isaiah Chol Aruai, chairperson of South Sudan's National Bureau of Statistics, said on Monday.

Thomson Reuters Foundation