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NEW YORK, March 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Famine in South Sudan could be brought to an end if world leaders would step in and keep local politicians from fighting over and wasting funds that could help feed the starving nation, actor George Clooney said in a newspaper opinion piece on Thursday.
Describing the famine as "government-made," Clooney said South Sudan's political elite are fanning ethnic tensions to build fortunes in the oil-rich nation.
Civil war broke out in South Sudan in 2013 after a disagreement between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar exploded into military confrontation.
The conflict pits the military of Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against forces loyal to Machar, a Nuer.
Nearly half the population, or about 5.5 million people, is expected to be without a reliable source of food by July. Last month, the United Nations said parts of South Sudan are already suffering from famine.
Clooney, in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, called for "choking the illicit financial flows of the kleptocrats."
"Even while the world responds to the famine, it's time also to address root causes," said Clooney, who co-authored the piece with John Prendergast, a human rights activist and author.
Clooney, 55, who has appeared in such films as "Ocean's Eleven" and "Syriana," has used his stardom to bring attention to humanitarian crises in South Sudan and neighboring Sudan.
Last year, the Sentry, a non-profit group he founded with Prendergast, issued a report saying families on both sides of South Sudan's civil war have amassed fortunes from the conflict. (Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)