South Sudan: Don’t let down the world’s newest country, says Amos

3 Feb 2012

ERC Amos visiting clinic in Walgak, Jonglei State, South Sudan, 2 February 2012
Aid must continue as humanitarian needs increase, warns the UN’s humanitarian chief after visiting crisis-torn Jonglei State

The UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), Valerie Amos, urged the world not to let down its newest independent country, after she visited the centre of a major humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.

Her comments came towards the end of a four-day visit, in which she witnessed the effects of widespread intercommunal violence in Jonglei State. Recent fighting between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes has led to mass displacement and prompted a major humanitarian operation.

“Some of the women I met have lost loved ones, their homes, cattle and most of their belongings. People have been in the bush for several weeks, often without food or clean drinking water,” said Ms. Amos. “Many are highly traumatized and are not willing to return to their villages.”

During her visit to Bor, Walgak and Pibor in Jonglei, she met aid workers from 17 organizations that provide food, water, medicine and shelter to displaced people. They described a daily struggle to overcome insecurity, movement restrictions and limited capacity.

The latest violence has compounded an already difficult situation. “Before the crisis in Jonglei, humanitarian partners were already overstretched, carrying out some 30 emergency operations across the country. In some of the worst-hit areas, there are only a handful of partners on the ground,” Ms. Amos said.

Recent clashes along the country’s disputed border with Sudan have also forced tens of thousands of people to flee into South Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have also chosen to return voluntarily, adding to widespread food insecurity and high levels of vulnerability.  

“The situation in the country is extremely precarious, and the risk of a dangerous decline is very real. Food insecurity has already increased, and 2012 will witness an earlier, and a longer, season of hunger,” Ms. Amos said.

“Humanitarian needs will inevitably increase, and the combined efforts of the Government, the aid community and the donors will not be enough. The scope of this crisis cannot be ignored.”

The UN and partners have appealed for US$763 million to carry out 271 aid projects through 110 organizations in South Sudan in 2012.  

Ms. Amos added: “Since my last visit here in 2010, signs of change in South Sudan are already visible, and I can see it here in Juba. But perhaps the most significant change is in the hearts of the people, proud of their hard-won nation, the newest independent country in the world. The world must not let them down.”  

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