By Justin Sink - 08/12/14 10:32 AM EDT
As South Sudanese rebels and government leaders struggle to come to terms, the U.S. will provide $180 million in food aid for the young nation's beleaguered population, the White House announced Tuesday.
"The scale of the suffering and humanitarian need there is shocking, and the threat of famine is real — so much so that we are using this emergency funding authority for the first time since 2008," national security adviser Susan Rice said in a statement.
The bloody civil war, which broke out last year amid tensions between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, has left tens of thousands of people dead, according to international organizations. Some four million people are suffering from the food crisis and 1.5 million have been forced to flee their homes, according to CARE International.
"It is more critical than ever that both sides end the violence and ensure the safety of humanitarian aid workers so that they can reach those most in need across South Sudan," Rice added.
On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the inability to form a transitional government as "an outrage and an insult" to the citizens of South Sudan.
"Neither party engaged in peace talks seriously," Kerry said in a statement. "We condemn these failures."
In May, the U.S. imposed economic and travel sanctions against leaders on both sides of the ethnic conflict.