March 22, 2014 (JUBA) – Senior UN officials have asked both the South Sudan government and rebel forces for their full cooperation to help save hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in conflict zones.
- UNOCHA director John Ging (R) speaks to the press as UNOCHA coordinator in South Sudan Toby Lanzer looks on in Juba on 21 March 2014 (ST)
John Ging, the director for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), led a visit by high level officials from New York this week to Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states.
Addressing reporters in the capital, Juba, on Friday, the UN officials called on both parties to the conflict to respect the work of humanitarian agencies and allow speedy access to civilians.
“It is not acceptable to steal humanitarian assistance, to loot humanitarian premises. We cannot raise money internationally for humanitarian action if every time the humanitarian supplies are stolen,” said Ging.
The World Food Programme’s (WFP) David Kaartud said at least 50 trucks heading to Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, are still awaiting clearance.
Kaatrud said numerous checkpoints have been set up on the roads, causing delays in delivering relief supplies.
The government recently said it planned to check all UN vehicles in the country following the seizure of a weapons cargo in a UN convoy intercepted in Lakes state earlier this month en route to Unity state.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said the weapons were destined for Ghanaian peace keepers, but were mistakenly transported by road rather than air as is UN policy after a labelling error.
The incident seriously damaged the UN’s credibility in South Sudan, sparking protests, as well as demands for UNMISS head Hilde Johnson to stand down amid allegations that the agency had been secretly transporting the weapons to aid rebel fighters in the country.
A ceasefire deal signed between South Sudan’s warring parties on 23 January has failed to halt conflict in the country, which erupted in Juba in mid-December after political tensions turned violent.
The UN estimates that 4.9 million people across the country are in need of humanitarian assistance.
The conflict has displaced almost one million people, including nearly 250,000 who have fled to neighbouring countries to escape the violence.