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Action needed on “massive” humanitarian crisis in Sudan, S. Sudan: UN

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March 26, 2014 (JUBA) – A top UN official has expressed deep concern about the dual crises currently gripping Sudan and South Sudan, calling for a greater international response to address the mounting humanitarian needs in both countries.

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South Sudanese refugees line up to receive breakfast at Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp (Lucy Murunga/World Vision)

John Ging, the operations manager for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), was speaking at a press briefing in New York after returning from a recent visit to the region.

With violence escalating in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region and South Sudan’s violent political conflict still unresolved, Ging said both countries were facing “massive and growing humanitarian needs”.

He said humanitarian agencies were now facing enormous challenges in terms of meeting humanitarian needs, at the same time media attention and public interest is waning.

“The people of Sudan are facing an overwhelming humanitarian crisis that has almost entirely slipped off the international community’s radar,” said Ging.

“More people were displaced in Darfur in 2013 than in any single year since 2004, and almost 200,000 people have already been displaced this year. Yet, while people’s needs are increasing, international attention and commitment are at an all-time low,” he added.

Over two million people have been displaced since violence erupted in Darfur 11 years ago, with tensions across the region recently flaring amid worsening inter-communal violence and renewed attacks by government forces and their allied militia.

According to the UN, more than 6.1 million people are in need humanitarian assistance across Sudan, a 40% increase since January 2013.

Ging said that while many people do not have access to even the most basic healthcare, education, water and sanitation, yet, just 3% of the funding required to meet humanitarian needs in Sudan in 2014 has been received.

Across the border in South Sudan a brutal crisis fuelled by political and tribal tensions has displaced more than 700,000, with nearly a quarter of a million people fleeing to Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

Nearly five million people are now urgently in need of basic humanitarian aid in South Sudan.

Meanwhile, deputy spokesperson for the UN secretary-general Farhan Haq said the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are appealing to donors for $371 million needed to support the flood of South Sudanese refugees arriving in neighbouring countries.

More than 204,000 people have already fled South Sudan since conflict erupted in mid-December and UNHCR expects that number to reach 340,000 by the end of the year.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Haq said that according to UNHCR South Sudanese have recently been fleeing to neighbouring countries at a rate of nearly 2,000 per day, with most heading to Ethiopia and Uganda.

“With more than 700,000 people displaced inside South Sudan and 3.7 million at high risk of food insecurity, UNHCR warns that the potential for further cross-border movement is high,” said Haq.

Ging has described the scale of death and destruction in the world’s newest nation, which won its independence from Sudan in 2011 after a more than two-decades-long civil, as “appalling”.

“Six months ago, the country was on the right path to development. Today, the parties to the conflict are wantonly destroying the very infrastructure which was laying the foundation for the country’s future. I appeal to all those with influence to urgently end the violence,” said Ging at the briefing.

Ging said with the rainy season approaching in June, humanitarian agencies in South Sudan were racing against the clock to deliver aid, calling on the international community to rapidly respond to the crisis.

Ging has also called for Sudanese authorities to allow greater access for humanitarian organisations in conflict zones, including Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

“Nearly two years since the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2046, aid has still not been delivered to rebel-held areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where rebel forces are engaged in an insurgency against the Khartoum.

With an estimated 800,000 people in need of assistance, Ging stressed “we cannot overstate the urgency of the humanitarian needs”.

“The people of Sudan and South Sudan are facing huge challenges and they deserve the support and attention of the international community,” said Ging.

“We urge the parties to the conflicts, and all who have influence on them, to end the violence and to make it possible for aid to be delivered on the massive and swift scale that is needed.”

(ST)

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