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4 December 2014 – A year of conflict has “devastated” South Sudan, the United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyung-wha Kang, said at UN Headquarters today, as she briefed journalists on her recent visit to that crisis-torn country and to Ethiopia.
Ms Kang, who is also UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs said fighting displaced some 1.9 million within the country, with many thousands seeking refuge in UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) bases as they fled attacks in fear for their lives. Many more had fled into the bush and were too fearful to return to their homes.
“Countless people have been killed, some very brutally,” she said, pointing out that many more had suffered appalling crimes, with many villages torched and lives ruined. Children, like a 13 year-old she recalled meeting in Lankien in Jonglei Province, had lost access to education and she had assessed the work of humanitarians in response to dire needs.
Political in-fighting between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, started in mid-December 2013 and subsequently turned into a full-fledged conflict that has sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to UNMISS bases around the country.
Ms. Kansa said today that even before the outbreak of hostilities, aid delivery in South Sudan posed major difficulties but the conflict intensified a “bleak” situation. Humanitarians faced active hostility, threats to their lives and significant logistical pressures.
A total of 13 humanitarian workers had died since November 2013, but their efforts meant that assistance reached 3.5 million people, that a famine was averted, and that a cholera outbreak had been suppressed.
Despite such efforts, however, 2.5 million people would face food insecurity next year and aid organizations needed $600m to kick-start their 2015 operations. Pre-positioning of assets and preparations ahead of the rainy season in April would be necessary, as up to 60 per cent of the country’s roads would become impassable.
In addition, previous dry seasons had seen escalations of violence, and she said she expected the same to happen now. An uptick in violence had already been seen in some provinces.
During her visit to Ethiopia, Ms. Kang travelled to the town of Gambella, on the border with South Sudan, where many South Sudanese refugees had fled. Up to 40 per cent of the 472,000 refugees fleeing South Sudan arrived in Ethiopia, she noted, adding that Kenya and Uganda were also major stopping points.
She was impressed by the Ethiopian Government’s efforts to help refugees and she pointed out that resources required to support the refugee population were increasingly stretched as the needs and scale of requirements grew to “tremendous” levels.
While in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, she had briefed the African Union Peace and Security Council, noting that her message, first and foremost, was that “the conflict must stop.” She called on those with influence on the South Sudanese parties to redouble their efforts to find a political solution and on both parties to the conflict to respect ceasefire commitments and international legal obligations.