The following is a statement attributed to the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Ms. Lise Grande.
Humanitarian agencies are mounting a major emergency operation in Jonglei State in South Sudan to help people affected by the recent wave of inter-communal violence. “The Government of South Sudan has declared Jonglei a disaster zone and asked humanitarian agencies to accelerate life-saving assistance. We’re responding to that call,” said the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan Ms. Lise Grande.
Humanitarian partners estimate that at least 60,000 people have been affected by the recent violence, a figure that may rise as partners assess conditions on the ground. Most of the people who need assistance have been in the bush for up to two weeks, in many cases without food, clean water or shelter.
Humanitarian agencies have been assisting with the evacuation of more than 140 people wounded in the violence throughout the crisis and life-saving assistance is already being provided in the Pibor and Boma areas. Teams are mobilizing to respond in Walgak and in three villages which have been burnt to the ground, Likuangole, Fertait and Bilait.
Preliminary results of assessments done in hard-hit areas indicate that the most urgent needs include high-nutritional food, clean water, health care and shelter. A rapid response plan to ensure emergency needs are met in all affected areas is currently being finalised by humanitarian partners, ready for full activation in the days ahead.
“This emergency operation is going to be one of the most complex and expensive in South Sudan since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005. With the exception of Boma, the areas we need to access are extremely remote and can only be reached by air,” according to Ms. Grande. “Delivering assistance by air is hugely expensive compared to delivery by road. Unfortunately, in the areas affected in Jonglei, we don’t have a choice,” said Ms. Grande.
The most recent spike in inter-communal violence has compounded an already difficult humanitarian situation in South Sudan. Prior to events in late December, more than 350,000 people had been displaced during 2011 by rebel militia and inter-communal fighting according to reports by local authorities and assessment teams.
In addition, military operations in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile States have forced 75,000 people to seek refuge in South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile states since June. Humanitarian partners are also responding to emergency needs among the 360,000 South Sudanese who have returned from Sudan since late 2010.
“Before the crisis in Jonglei, humanitarian partners were already over-stretched. In some of the worst-hit places, there are only a handful partners on the ground. In some places, there are none. Although humanitarian partners are facing major obstacles, we will do what we can to help the Government meet urgent needs,” said Ms. Grande.