There are worrying signs that the food situation in South Sudan is deteriorating and – with the onset of rains in the next month – the position will become increasingly serious.

TOcha South Sudan 3 March 2014he civil war between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar’s forces has forced around 900,000 to flee from their homes. About 200,000 have fled to safety beyond South Sudan’s borders. This much is absolutely clear from the latest survey from the United Nations dated 3rd of March.

This report, from OCHA, provides a breakdown for the number of people who are now in Ethiopia – just over 60,000. Yesterday Toby Lanzer, the UN Secretary-General’s deputy special representative in South Sudan tweeted this:

“1 of our assessment teams just went to #Pagak: there were thousands of people, many looking severely malnourished, streaming into #Ethiopia.”

The implication is clear: increasing numbers of people see no future, at present, in South Sudan. They are prepared to leave their homes and their fields just when the rains are coming and they should be getting ready to plant. If they miss the planting season there will obviously be no harvest. The already critical situation in South Sudan will become even more severe.

The UN is doing what it can to pre-position food, as it does before every rainy season. But the level of displacement and the scale of the coming crisis is very severe indeed.