South Sudan: Boosting aid effort to respond to alarming humanitarian situation
GENEVA, Switzerland, May 15, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The humanitarian situation in South Sudan, already dire, is set to deteriorate further with the arrival of the rainy season. To maintain a suitably robust response and bring aid to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the conflict, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is asking donors for an additional 48 million Swiss francs (approximately 55 million US dollars). With a total budget of 112 million francs (127 million dollars), the ICRC's operation in South Sudan will be the organization's second largest, after Syria.
"Almost five months of intense conflict have severely affected vast numbers of people and devastated large areas within the country," said Eric Marclay, the ICRC's head of operations for East Africa. "Despite the massive aid effort already under way, the living conditions of displaced people in South Sudan remain alarming. Hundreds of thousands live in makeshift camps, their usual means of earning a living totally disrupted. Many have lost their cattle, and others are unable to resume their farming or fishing activities. They lack shelter, and they have no reliable way of obtaining clean water. It's urgent that we take further action and ramp up our humanitarian effort."
Heavy fighting in recent weeks has also had a serious impact on the population. "We are deeply concerned by reports of civilians and medical facilities being deliberately targeted, and by reports of lack of respect for personnel engaged in medical duties," said Mr Marclay. "That's why we continue to remind the parties of their obligation to abide by the rules of international humanitarian law. In particular, commanders must enforce discipline and make sure that medical services are shown due respect."
For displaced people living in temporary settlements or scattered in remote areas, who are already exposed to especially harsh conditions, the rainy season will bring even more hardship. In addition, the rains will complicate the delivery of aid as roads become impassable and aircraft landing strips turn into mud. The ICRC has started using airdrops to bring in large quantities of food, seed and other essential aid.
"Our staff on the ground are assessing needs and making the necessary preparations to take delivery of the aid being dropped at specific locations. Together with South Sudan Red Cross volunteers and the local community, they will see to it that the aid is distributed fairly to those who need it most," said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the ICRC delegation in South Sudan. The last time the ICRC had to resort to airdrops was in 1997, in northern Afghanistan.
"To respond to this dire situation and bring people the help they need, we are striving to step up our humanitarian activities," said Mr Marclay. The additional funding will enable the ICRC to provide food for 420,000 people (instead of 60,000, as initially planned), and fishing equipment, seed and tools for more than 540,000 people (an increase from 200,000), and drinking water for 340,000 people (up from 250,000). The ICRC will also keep its four mobile surgical teams operating in the country until the end of the year and expand its hospital support, currently going to a single facility, to two further facilities.