South Sudan: People want peace and reconciliation, says UN Humanitarian Chief
UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos wrapped up her three-day mission to South Sudan today highlighting the dire humanitarian situation affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the world’s youngest country.
“People are short of food, living in conditions with poor sanitation and very little water,” said the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs who visited displaced families in the capital, Juba, and in the town of Malakal in Upper Nile State.
“I met women who had walked for days to seek protection and assistance, children who had been separated from their parents as they fled, and people who said they had been targeted and abused because of their ethnicity or political affiliation.”
Since the start of the conflict on 15 December 2013, more than 702,000 people have been internally displaced across the country, including 76,500 people who have sought safety at the UN bases. Another 123,000 have fled the country to Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya, putting a burden on host communities along the borders.
Reconciliation and peace
“People spoke to me about the importance of peace and reconciliation,” said Ms. Amos, whose visit comes just days after the Government of South Sudan and the opposition signed an agreement to end hostilities and allow more humanitarian access.
“I hope the agreement will lead to an environment where people will feel able to return to their homes and rebuild their lives.”
Despite the political progress, people remain displaced and aid organizations have only been able to reach an estimated 300,000 people so far due to insecurity. Three aid workers have been killed since the conflict began.
Ms. Amos visited humanitarian warehouses that were looted and damaged two weeks ago, further hampering aid efforts in towns like Malakal where over 40,000 people have been displaced.
“There are tens of thousands of people in the town who need our help. Because of the looting we cannot help as many as we would wish to,” she said, calling on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law that calls for the protection of civilians and for unhindered humanitarian access.
Development gains dented
The current crisis comes on top of an already challenging humanitarian situation, said Ms. Amos. Today an estimated 3.7 million people are food insecure. Many of those affected by the conflict have lost their livelihoods and are now unable to feed their families.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that the conflict is threating to increase hunger and malnutrition considerably, unravelling any progress made in food security since South Sudan’s independence in July 2011. The agricultural and fishing industries, which generate jobs for 78 per cent of the country’s rural population, have been severely disrupted.
“The development gains made in South Sudan over the last two years have been severely dented by the recent conflict,” said Ms. Amos. “The whole international community hopes that the current situation will stabilize, so that efforts can continue in terms of longer-term development.
“People of South Sudan want stability and a chance to return home.”