February 28, 2018 (JUBA) - The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Eugene Owusu has appealed to all parties in the conflict to ensure immediate, safe and unhindered access across the country, a week after famine was declared in parts of the country.
- Deputy head of UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Eugene Owusu (YouTube Photo)
“The people of South Sudan are suffering beyond measure,” said Owusu.
“The famine that was declared last week represents only the most extreme tip of the iceberg of needs in this country. To avert further catastrophe, it is imperative that humanitarians are able to act swiftly and robustly. I implore all parties to this conflict to uphold their responsibilities under international humanitarian law, place the plight of the people first, give aid workers unfettered access, and protect civilians," he added.
Owusu’s call follows a series of recent events which have hampered humanitarian operations and placed civilians at risk. Since late January, clashes on the Western Bank in Upper Nile have caused tens of thousands of people to flee Wau Shilluk and surrounding areas. Humanitarians remain deeply concerned regarding the safety of these civilians, many of whom are now in Kodok and Aburoc.
In South Sudan’s Jonglei state, for instance, clashes have reportedly reached new locations in recent days, causing civilians to flee. During the chaos, humanitarian compounds were reportedly looted by armed actors as well as community members.
In Central Equatoria, aid workers were denied access last week to key locations outside of Lainya town, where tens of thousands of people in need have not been reached with aid in months. And most recently, 28 humanitarians were forced to relocate from Mayendit County, Unity - one of the two counties hit by famine - this past weekend due to insecurity.
“I welcome His Excellency the President’s reassurance last week that all humanitarian organizations will have unimpeded access to needy populations across the country,” said Owusu, adding, “Time is of the essence, and lives are in the balance, so it is critical that these words be translated into concrete actions on the ground immediately.”
Insecurity and lack of access have left some 100,000 people facing starvation in parts of South Sudan where famine was declared on 20 February, and a further 1 million are on the brink of famine. By the height of the lean season in July, it is expected that some 5.5 million people will be severely food insecure across the nation.
Since December 2013, about 3.4 million people have been displaced, including nearly 1.9 million people who have been internally displaced and about 1.5 million who have fled as refugees to neighbouring countries, according reports from aid agencies.
As such, however, humanitarian organizations are urgently appealing for funding to respond to the escalating crisis, with US$1.6 billion required to provide life-saving assistance and protection to some 5.8 million people across South Sudan in 2017.