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UN official briefs Vatican on S. Sudan’s humanitarian catastrophe

June 27, 2018 (ROME) - The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) regional refugee coordinator and special advisor for the South Sudan refugee situation, Arnauld Akodjenou on Tuesday briefed officials at the Vatican in Italy on the situation in war-torn South Sudan.

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A woman carries water through a UN camp for internally displaced people in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state (Photo: IOM)

The briefing came as rival South Sudan leaders returned to the negotiation table in an attempt to end four years of a brutal civil war, which has killed tens of thousands of South Sudanese and forcibly displaced millions in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader, Riek Machar on Wednesday signed an agreement providing to implement a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire in the country ahead of the formation of an inclusive transitional cabinet.

Representatives of the different opposition groups also co-signed the agreement witnessed by the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in the capital, Khartoum.

The senior UN official told the Vatican News that the human cost of the conflict has reached epic proportions and risks becoming the worst humanitarian disaster in Africa, if nothing is done to end the civil war.

Early this year, UNHCR launched a funding appeal at the beginning to support refugees fleeing the worsening humanitarian situation in South Sudan and for people in need in the country during 2018.

But money received is far less than what is needed, Akodjenou said.

According to aid agencies, violence and insecurity have forcibly displaced 1 in 3 of the country’s population - either within South Sudan or across borders while another 7 million people in the world’s youngest nation are in need of humanitarian assistance.