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UN aid chief in war-torn S.Sudan calls for truce

JUBA, South Sudan - The United Nations' aid chief in war-torn South Sudan called Tuesday, April 29 for a month-long truce, warning that 7 million people face hunger if the brutal 4-month conflict continues. (READ: S. Sudan rebels slaughter 'hundreds' in ethnic massacres: UN)

"I call on all parties to the conflict in South Sudan to observe one month of tranquility this May, to stop the violence and to provide a safe environment for civilians," UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan Toby Lanzer said in a statement.

The conflict has already left thousands of people dead, more than a million displaced, and prompted UN warnings of the risk of famine.

A ceasefire signed in January is in tatters, with mounting global outrage over a wave of atrocities.

April and May are the key farming months in South Sudan for planting crops during the long rains, and if people are not able to access their fields, the scale of hunger will grow.

"One month without violence will allow people to plant and cultivate," Lanzer added. "April is behind us, only May is left to enable people to prepare their fields and try to ensure that they have a harvest at the end of 2014."

The UN refugee agency repeated warnings Tuesday of the extent of the humanitarian crisis, with more than 1.2 million people forced from their homes since fighting began on December 15, including almost 300,000 civilians fleeing to neighbouring nations.

With seasonal rains intensifying, aid agencies are being forced to make hugely expensive air lifts of food and other supplies as the mud tracks that cover the vast nation become too boggy for trucks.

"The conflict which broke out in mid-December has put a staggering 7 million people at risk of food insecurity across the country," Lanzer said.

"While the only way to reverse this crisis and its grave humanitarian consequences is to find a political resolution to the conflict, one month of tranquility this May is a tangible step that will have an immediate impact on the lives of millions of people."

Slow moving peace talks in neighboring Ethiopia restarted on Monday after long delays, but have made little progress, with delegates saying they were still considering a draft agenda after weeks of bickering about what discussions would even focus on.

The appeal for a truce comes as the UN's top human rights official Navi Pillay and special envoy for the prevention of genocide Adama Dieng flew to the war-ravaged town of Bor, one of the worst affected areas of the brutal conflict, and which swapped hands several times between rebels and government troops. - Rappler.com