(JUBA) – South Sudan rival parties must silence the guns in order to alleviate the humanitarian suffering crisis in the young nation, the United Nations relief coordinator warned on Wednesday.
- Deputy head of UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Eugene Owusu (YouTube Photo)
Addressing reporters in the capital, Juba, Eugene Owusu, listed several violations against humanitarian work, including the killing of 82 workers over the last three years and impediment to delivery of assistance to the displaced persons as some challenges, alongside the armed conflict in the young nation.
According to Owusu, for U.N humanitarian agencies to assist the 3.5 million people displaced by the conflict that started in 2013, “the guns have to fall silent and the cessation of hostilities must hold.”
“While humanitarians [agencies] will continue to do all that is possible to alleviate suffering, the fact remains that unless the guns fall silent, the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate,” he said.
At least 7.5 million of the estimated 12 million South Sudanese will need assistance in 2017, the U.N humanitarian respond plan showed.
The U.N relief chief said the new clashes in different parts of the country including Wau Shilluk in Upper Nile Region, Wau in Western Bahr El Ghazal and Kajo-Keji in Central Equatoria have triggered new waves of thousands of displaced persons and food insecurity.
“Food insecurity and malnutrition is a serious challenge and have reached unprecedented levels in this country,” said Owusu, adding that “hundreds of thousands of people are facing starvation and a million more are on the brink of famine across the country.”
Famine was declared in Unity State’s Mayendit and Leer countries in February. At least 100,000 people in the home region of Former First Vice President and leader of the armed SPLM in Opposition (IO), Riek Machar, could starve to death due to lack of food. UN agencies said some food was delivered in March to the area.
But in some parts of the country, however, humanitarian workers reportedly had to withdraw due to difficult and dangerous environment and humanitarian workers are “paying with their lives”.
82 aid workers, the U.N said, have been killed since December 2013, including the three humanitarian contractors killed in Wau last week.
“Aid workers are often harassed across the country and humanitarian compounds and supplies have been looted and vandalized, and most recently in Jonglei, in Kajo-Keji, Yei, Wau Shilluk and in Mayendit – all these happened between February and March,” the U.N humanitarian coordinator told reporters in Juba.
The senior U.N official, however, said these challenges were discussed by U.N and government officials to avert future harassment to aid workers, stressing that local governments have not being forthcoming in ending the violence against aid agencies.
Owusu said no amount of humanitarian assistance even if unimpeded access is granted, will end the “long suffering” South Sudanese have endured, without a political solution to the conflict.
“The humanitarian challenges that we are dealing with are the consequences of the failure of politics to reconcile differences and to address grievances. We must fix the politics, all parties must step up efforts towards the political solution to help lessen the humanitarian case-load,” he further observed.
Conflict broke out in December 2013 following months of internal wrangling in the ruling SPLM party over leadership, vision of the party, reforms and democracy. The three-year-old war has killed thousands of people and displaced 1.6 million people as refugees to neighboring countries. Also, an estimated 1.9 million others are internally displaced in the country, with about 200,000 civilians sheltering at the U.N protection of civilians’ sites situated in government-controlled towns.