South Sudan: Emergency operation ramps up in Jonglei State

13 Jan 2012

12 January 2012: WFP begins food distribution to internally displaced persons in Pibor, Jonglei State. Credit: Isaac Gideon/UNMISS
Aid agencies are racing to provide food, water and shelter to 60,000 people, who are struggling to survive waves of inter-communal clashes in South Sudan

A large-scale emergency operation is gearing up to provide food, water and shelter to 60,000 people in South Sudan’s Jonglei State, amid continued clashes between two of the region’s largest ethnic groups.

New fighting broke out in late December 2011 between the Murle and the Lou Nuer communities, causing further displacement in the south-eastern region.

“The most recent spike in inter-communal violence compounded an already difficult humanitarian situation in South Sudan,” said Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan. “Before the crisis in Jonglei, humanitarian partners were already over-stretched.”

The latest in a series of retaliatory attacks took place on Wednesday, when Murle fighters allegedly attacked a Lou Nuer village in Uror County. Twelve people, wounded during the attack, are being treated at a Médecins Sans Frontières clinic in Nasir, in neighbouring Upper Nile State.

In 2011, more than 1,100 people lost their lives, and some 63,000 people were displaced by inter-communal violence in the State. The total number of people killed and displaced from the latest spate of attacks is yet to be confirmed. Many people are still in hiding in remote parts of the State after fleeing from the violence.

“Most affected areas can only be reached by air, making this operation extremely expensive compared to regular assistance delivered by road,” Ms. Grande said.  “The provision of heavy airlift capacity and a surge in relief workers on the ground are crucial to the success of this emergency operation.”  

Despite difficulties in reaching the hardest hit areas, aid agencies have been mobilised to deliver food, water and shelter across Jonglei - including Pibor and Boma towns. Jonglei is roughly the size of Bangladesh.

In Pibor alone, more than 32,000 people need humanitarian assistance, and emergency aid delivery has been ongoing since the end of December 2011. The World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) have airlifted tonnes of food and medical supplies into the town. More aid including soap, jerry cans, blankets, plastic sheeting and mosquito nets from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is expected in the coming days.

“Humanitarian agencies are working closely with the Government to identify solutions and promote reconciliation in order to bring an end to the cycle of violence,” Ms. Grande said.

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