UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS AND EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR, VALERIE AMOS PRESS REMARKS ON SOUTH SUDAN
JUBA, South Sudan, January 29, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Checked against delivery
I am coming to the end of a three-day visit to South Sudan where I have had an opportunity to see for myself the impact of the conflict on people over the last six weeks. I have also had an opportunity to discuss the situation with the President [Salva Kiir], the Ministers of Humanitarian and Cabinet Affairs, donors, UN agencies, and partner organizations in the country.
In just over six weeks, more than 702,000 people have been displaced by the conflict across the country, and another 123,000 have fled into neighbouring countries. I am proud of the work of humanitarian organizations in the country that remained during this tense and difficult period, and delivered urgently needed humanitarian aid.
Yesterday, I went to Malakal in the Upper Nile State. I saw people in dire circumstances: short of food, living in conditions with poor sanitation and very little water. Children are not in schools and health needs continue to rise. I met women who had walked for days to seek protection and assistance; children who had been separated from their parents as they fled; and people who said they had been targeted and abused because of their ethnicity or political affiliation.
So far, aid agencies have assisted over 300,000 displaced people. While this has saved many lives, we have not been able to provide assistance to many others due to the continuing insecurity. While in Malakal, I saw WFP [World Food Programme], IOM [International Organization for Migration] and UNICEF warehouses looted and assets damaged. There are tens of thousands of people in the town who need our help. Because of the looting we cannot help as many as we would wish to.
Aid workers have been subjected to violence, with three of our colleagues killed since 15 December . I have received worrying reports of interference in humanitarian activities, including a recent incident where 106 aid workers were prevented from relocating from Yirol in Lakes State to Juba for safety. This affects our ability to assist all people in need.
The current crisis comes on top of an already challenging humanitarian situation in the country, where 3.7 million people are now severely food insecure.
The violence and abuses we have seen since 15 December threaten the future of this young country. People have spoken to me about the importance of reconciliation and peace. I am encouraged by the agreement to cease hostilities that was signed last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I hope the agreement will lead to an environment where people will feel able to return to their homes and rebuild their lives.
I welcome President Kiir's statements about reconciliation and assurances that the humanitarian community can go anywhere they wish to help all South Sudanese. People of South Sudan want stability and a chance to return home. The development gains made in South Sudan over the last two years have been severely dented by the recent conflict. The whole international community hopes that the current situation will stabilise, so that efforts can continue in terms of longer-term development.
Finally, I strongly call on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure that all civilians are protected, regardless of who they are or where they come from.