Innovative aid programme has households plant crops, work for rations

Humanitarian groups say they're under increasing pressure to provide food for hundreds of thousands who are starving in war-ravaged South Sudan.

The United Nations says the food crisis gripping South Sudan has created what is now the world's fastest growing refugee crisis.

Every day 2800 men, women and children are fleeing to neighbouring countries because of violence and famine.

In Northern Barh el Ghazal, an area cut off by fighting, thousands are crossing the border to Sudan in search of food.

Crops have failed because of poor rainfall and the small amount of imported food getting in is too expensive for most, meaning there's unprecedented demand at aid distribution points.

Food distribution day brings hope and elation in a land where there's very little, and women wait expectantly gripping containers in the shade.

"The food I receive here will help support my family and means I can cook something for my five children," Ayulel Atat told Newshub.

This region is on the brink of famine and this monthly delivery is vital.

More than 1200 people were there when Newshub visited and it's a highly organised process.

Each family representative has a blue card which entitles them to a certain amount of rations.

Sacks of rye and cans of oil are hauled out, the proceeds carefully divided up between households.

Those getting the food have been part of an organised, innovative aid programme - they've had to plant crops and work to get rations.

Donations from Kiwis provided the tools they use and seeds they've planted.

But hundreds of others are at the distribution too - those who are unregistered, waiting and hoping with empty cans.

An elderly man approached Newshub asking for help, having walked five hours to get here.

"I've come here to beg those getting the rations in the hope someone will be generous," he told us.

"I have four children - we've just been eating wild fruits and selling firewood to get by."

Seven-year-old Amuk is also here because he's hungry.

He's picked up a few beans off the ground - a meagre find, but better than nothing.

"Until now all I've been eating is wild leaves from the trees," he told Newshub.

The World Vision workers running the distribution say the need has reached crisis point.

But at the moment, they can only assist those most at risk.

"We are focusing on the target beneficiaries. We are not able to cover the beneficiaries - all of them - because of the limited resources," World Vision's James Amet told Newshub.

So many have been reduced to begging - it's not how they want to live, but in this place of hostility and hunger, it's the only option.

Michael Morrah travelled to East Africa with assistance from World Vision. Click here to donate to the East Africa Hunger Crisis campaign.