NAIROBI, Kenya

Growing-season exodus likely to result in famine

More than 1 million people in South Sudan have fled their homes at a crucial time of the year: planting season. Famine, aid officials say, could be the result, and the U.N.’s top official for human rights said Wednesday she is appalled by the apparent lack of concern by the country’s two warring leaders that mass hunger looms.

“If famine does take hold later in the year – and the humanitarian agencies are deeply fearful that it will – responsibility for it will lie squarely with the country’s leaders, who agreed to a cessation of hostilities in January and then failed to observe it themselves,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navy Pillay, referring to South Sudan’s president and the former vice president.

UNICEF is warning that up to 50,000 children could die of malnutrition this year.

South Sudan is on “the verge of catastrophe,” warned Pillay, speaking to journalists. The country could descend into genocide, warned Adama Dieng, the U.N. envoy for the prevention of genocide, who also spoke to the press.

BAGHDAD

Prime minister confident as Iraq holds election

Iraq voted Wednesday in its first nationwide election since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011, with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki confident of victory and even offering an olive branch to his critics by inviting them to join him in a governing coalition.

But his optimism will do little to conceal the turmoil and violence that still stalk Iraq in the eight years he has held office, with the looming threat of the country sliding deeper into sectarian bloodshed and risking a breakup.

Al-Maliki’s upbeat comments sharply contrasted with voters’ sentiments, which ranged from despair to a gritty resolve to participate despite the threat of violence.

AZRAQ, Jordan

Third refugee camp opened to shelter 130,000 Syrians

Jordan opened a third refugee camp Wednesday in the middle of the desert for tens of thousands more Syrians fleeing the civil war, highlighting the staggering strains the refugees are creating in the region.

The sprawling facility, complete with prefabricated cabin-like shelters and a supermarket, is designed to accommodate up to 130,000 people and potentially become the world’s second-largest refugee camp.

The inauguration of the Azraq camp comes in the fourth year of the deadly conflict, which has caused about 40 percent of Syria’s prewar population of 23 million to flee their homes. The U.N. estimates there are nearly 2.7 million Syrian refugees, mostly in neighboring countries, and another 6.5 million who have been displaced in their homeland.

TROUT RIVER, Newfoundland

Town worries that 60-ton whale carcass will burst

The 60-ton carcass of a blue whale is rotting on the shore on Canada’s east coast, stinking up a town and triggering fears that it could burst.

Provincial officials said Wednesday they’re working with federal agencies to help small towns on Newfoundland’s west coast deal with the rotting carcasses of whales, including one that washed ashore near the town of Trout River.

The whale is one of three beached along Newfoundland’s west coast.

– From news service reports