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Donors pledge support to S. Sudan at Oslo humanitarian conference

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May 19, 2014 (OSLO, Norway) – South Sudan’s government and rebel delegates attending a humanitarian conference in Oslo, Norway have expressed optimism that donor countries will commit more funds to help avert a looming famine in the new nation, brought on my ongoing violence, which erupted in mid-December last year.

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South Sudan’s foreign affairs minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, delivers a speech at the the opening day of the Humanitarian Pledging Conference in Olso, Norway, on 19 May 2014 (ST)

Norway announced a $63 million aid package to South Sudan on the eve of the conference, which is due to get underway on Tuesday.

Norway says the funds will be “channelled through humanitarian actors on the ground” in South Sudan and neighbouring countries hosting hundreds of thousands of people forced away from their homes.

The sum comes on top of the $17 million Oslo has already pledged in emergency aid to South Sudan this year.

The UK has also pledged $100.97 million to help alleviate the country’s humanitarian crisis, with the United States announcing it would provide up to $50 million in assistance to help support South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries.

Speaking to Sudan Tribune on Monday, South Sudan’s minister of foreign affairs and head of the government delegation, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said the early pledges from donors at the conference had already exceeded his expectations.

The minister also made assurances that his government would ensure safe access for humanitarian agencies oeprating in the country.

“There is hope that this money will be raised and it will go ... to address the humanitarian disaster which is expected. A lot of destruction has already happened to schools, to clinics and so you find that the children have lost their school and all that,” he said.

Aid agencies are calling for $1.8 billion to help meet urgent humanitarian needs in the country, with a UN appeal for $1.3 billion generating just 40% of the required funds.

Hussein Mar Nyuot, the leader of the opposition team in Oslo, echoed Marial’s sentiments.

“We (rebels) are committed to [reaching an] agreement on humanitarian assistance and the corridors that we agreed with the government,” said Nyuot, the former deputy governor of Jonglei state, adding that accountability must also be a priority.

“We want humanitarian services to go to our people without obstruction, but again also we want to be involved in planning together [and] reaching out to the people,” he said.

The Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs said the gravity of the situation in South Sudan, and the impact on neighbouring countries, calls for immediate action.

“There is an acute need for $800 million in humanitarian assistance for civilians in South Sudan. So far, only 39 % of the $1.3 billion UN pledge has been forthcoming. The conference aims to increase humanitarian funding and to agree on what more can be done to improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Meanwhile, Norwegian foreign affairs minister Borge Brende said he is “deeply concerned” about the targeting of civilians by both parties to the conflict.

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The SPLM in Opposition’s head of delegate, Hussein Mar Nyuot (R), with another unidentified opposition leader in Oslo, Norway, on 19 May 2014 (ST)

Violence erupted in South Sudan five months ago following escalating tensions within the ruling SPLM party. The conflict has pitted forces loyal to the government against rebels aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar.

Both sides have recently traded accusations over violations to a renewed ceasefire agreement signed on 9 May following a face to face meeting between Kiir and Machar in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa – their first since conflict erupted.

The political rivals also affirmed their commitment to a month of tranquillity and dialogue as a means to address the current crisis.

“The government and us, we are partners in this (Humanitarian situation) together with the international community [and] there is no way that any party will be left out,” Nyuot said when asked what role the opposition would play in the appeal for humanitarian assistance.

Marial told the opening session in Oslo on Monday that the ceasefire agreement was holding, reiterating his government’s commitment to reaching a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

The Nordic conference has been organised in cooperation with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to help raise funds and find ways to improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance to South Sudan. It is being attended by delegations from 41 donor countries.

The ongoing conflict has exacted a terrible human toll, causing severe disruptions to livelihoods and crop planting across the country, leading to a steep decline in food production and raising fears of a possible famine.

Thousands have been killed and more than 1.3 million people displaced, with the UN estimating that 4.9 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance.

(ST)

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