March 4, 2017 (JUBA)- South Sudanese government has ordered the withdrawal of the humanitarian organisations from the famine-hit area of Mayendit in the Unity region in preparation for a major military campaign, sparking fears.
A South Sudanese military intelligence officer told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that the decision of the government aims to ensure the safety of the humanitarian organisations because the areas in which they operate currently needs to be cleared of the armed opposition groups allied to the former First Vice-President Riek Machar.
“The objective of these directives is not to deny the civil population relief assistance. It is to create a safe environment for their operations because these organisations operate in areas which are not safe for them,” a military source said Saturday.
“They are the areas in which rebels of Riek Machar have been causing havoc. And so these areas need to be cleared. So these rebels need to be flushed out and this is what we are doing now in Lou Nuer and areas in the greater unity,” he added.
The special representative of the secretary-general of the United Nations in South Sudan David Shearer issued a statement on Friday saying humanitarian organisations have been told evacuate Mayendit area, while military attacks in the towns of Yuai and Motot interrupted their operations.
“In other towns of Yuai and Motot in the eastern parts of the country, humanitarian organisations were forced to leave due to the fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA in Opposition. Their compounds and supplies were subsequently looted,” the statement reads.
“Humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organisations were told to evacuate the town of Mayendit in the heart of the famine-afflicted area because of the risk of fighting resuming,” it adds.
Shearer appealed to South Sudanese leaders to support civilians trapped in the conflict and famine-affected areas in the country.
“South Sudan’s political leadership needs to support its own citizens, who are in desperate need across the country and cease hostilities,” the United Nations Special Representative to the Secretary-General for South Sudan,
United Nations humanitarian agencies declared a famine situation affecting around 100,000 people in parts of the former Unity State on 20 February.
In the first two months this year, UNHCR reported that 140,000 people had fled into neighbouring countries, displaced by the ongoing conflict.
In addition, humanitarian agencies and the United Nations in South Sudan, who want to reach these people in need, are repeatedly refused access by local authorities.
“It is the most vulnerable in society who are most affected by this shocking situation,” said David Shearer. “They are the women and children who have fled their homes and livelihoods in terror and taken shelter outside of South Sudan or, in the case of many, in the swamps and forests, where their coping mechanisms are rapidly being exhausted.”
“I have only just arrived as the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, yet I am alarmed at how little a response to the plight of these people has been heard from their leaders."
The international envoy underscored the need for a cessation of hostilities to end the suffering of the South Sudanese people.
“Those affected by the humanitarian crisis are still citizens of this young country, and they deserve protection. But the constant fighting shows they are getting none. Instead, they are bearing the brunt,” he said.