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UN says over a million displaced by S. Sudanese conflict

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March 31, 2014 (JUBA) – More than three months of the South Sudanese conflict has led to the displacement of over a million people, latest United Nations figures show.

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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)

Of these 803,200 have reportedly been displaced within the country and another 254,000 have fled to neighbouring countries. The world body has repeatedly warned the situation is likely to worsen as the violence continues.

Fighting erupted between forces loyal t president Salva Kiir and troops loyal to his former deputy, Riek Machar, in December. Although the two sides signed a ceasefire agreement in January, fighting has continued denting hopes for peace.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the conflict had caused "a serious deterioration in the food security situation", leaving around 3.7 million people at risk.

"Fighting between government and opposition forces has continued, especially in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile state, where towns and rural areas have been ravaged by the violence," it said.

At least 4.9 million people, UN said, are in need of humanitarian assistance, warning that the remote and dispersed placement sites make it difficult to reach many conflict-affected people.

In its report, the UN says it has received only a quarter of the money it needs to respond to the growing crisis.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 after years of war, but its post-independence period has been marked by violence and food insecurity.

The latest crisis erupted on 15 December in the capital, Juba, before spreading to other key regions throughout the country.

TOP AID OFFICIALS TO VISIT

Meanwhile, alarmed at the impact of ongoing violence in South Sudan, the heads of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) will conduct a joint trip to meet conflict-affected people and review the ongoing response to the humanitarian crisis.

WFP’s executive director, Ertharin Cousin, and the UN high commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, will reportedly spend two days in South Sudan to meet displaced people, partners and local authorities, before crossing over the border to meet some of the more than 80,000 refugees in Ethiopia.

"It is heartbreaking to see that some of the very people who had fled the war two decades ago, people we helped to return to South Sudan after independence, are having to flee for their lives again, many back to the very same places where they lived in exile," Guterres said in a statement, adding that 40,000 people have so far crossed into Sudan to escape recent fighting.

Cousin said the large-scale population displacement and disruption to markets and trade routes was also exacerbating the food security crisis.

"People are in acute need. Humanitarians require two things: safe access to those in need and the funds to bring in lifesaving supplies – food, shelter, vaccines, healthcare and other aid," she said.

"Several countries have contributed generously, but at current levels we are only able to cover a fraction of the needs," added the senior UN official.

An inter-agency appeal led by the UNHCR has appealed for more than $370 million to help meet the humanitarian needs of refugees who fled to Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

(ST)

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