The government and aid agencies in South Sudan say the conflict-driven poverty and severe food insecurity are pushing people to desperate extremes. Picture: AP Photo/Mariah Quesada

Rumbek — Humanitarian workers in South Sudan say the country's ongoing civil war has increased the rate of child marriage to alarming levels.

According to the United Nations, more than half of girls in South Sudan are married before age 18, often by force. 

Years of conflict are worsening what was already a widespread practice, with starving families seeing daughters as a source of income.

Isaac Karkon, head of South Sudan's humanitarian arm in the Rumbek region, said that people are dying from hunger. "So if you have a mature daughter you give her up to let the rest survive."

The world's youngest nation is well into its fourth year of civil war, with mass displacement, alleged war crimes and starvation driving millions of people deeper into despair.

Associated Press