In South Sudan, a long-running conflict is having increasingly dire consequences, as food shortages put more and more lives at risk.

South Sudan plunged into ethnic violence in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice-president.

In August 2015, a peace deal was signed — but it hasn't stopped the fighting. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and forced 3.5 million to flee their homes.

In the past month, the situation has worsened. 

This week U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warned the Security Council that 5.5 million people — half the country's population — face "life-threatening hunger if nothing changes soon."

The CBC's Margaret Evans is in Juba, South Sudan's capital city.

Juba

What's the situation in Juba?

"Juba's pretty unsettled right now. There was some rioting over the weekend.

Soldiers's salaries here haven't been paid in about three months and that's the same for essential service workers like doctors and nurses.

All this while the country is facing a huge problem with growing hunger.

I visited the city's only facility for kids suffering from acute malnutrition and it gives you a sense of the problems in the rest of the country coming into the capital, people coming here hoping that they might be able to find food for their kids or help for their sick children.

This hospital's in dire conditions. Forty-five babies in the ward I saw, only 23 beds, the rest on the floor in a tent."

What measures are needed?

"Certainly for the people suffering from hunger, a more secure environment for aid agencies to operate in.

They're trying to get out to these two areas that have been declared famine areas but the fighting is fluid, it shifts every day and aid workers themselves have come under attack," Evans says.

Since the civil war began, 82 aid workers have been killed, according to a Reuters report.

The U.S. ambassador to the UN urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo and additional sanctions on South Sudan to pressure parties to end the conflict.

"Russia and China disagree," says Evans.

"I did speak this morning to Serge Tissot, he's the head of the UN's food and agriculture organization here in Juba. He said there's no other alternative but pushing harder for peace."

What's in South Sudan's near future?

"There are so many displaced people inside the country, they can't even begin to think about harvesting another crop which means the hunger problem is going to be around for a long time to come," says Evans.

"The other problem is the rainy season approaches very soon and warring parties on both sides will be trying to make strategic gains on the ground before that happens, so people are fearful that there might be in fact an uptick in violence in the very near future."

APTOPIX South Sudan Rebels Return

South Sudanese rebel soldiers raise their weapons at a military camp in Juba on April 7. CBC reporter Margaret Evans says both sides of the conflict will try to make gains before the rainy season begins. (Jason Patinkin/Associated Press)

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters