South Sudan: Humanitarian situation remains serious

By International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Needs remain acute in South Sudan, where recent fighting has exacerbated a situation that was already very precarious for thousands of people. The ICRC and the South Sudan Red Cross continue to expand their humanitarian activities in order to bring help to those who need it most.

"The situation remains tense and unpredictable. As a result, humanitarian needs keep multiplying," said Melker Mabeck, head of the ICRC delegation in South Sudan. "Many people urgently need food, water and shelter. Many families have been dispersed. Our priority is to bring aid quickly to those who need it most."

"We were already running a major humanitarian operation prior to the conflict in December," he explained. "During the past weeks, the ICRC has expanded the geographical scope of its humanitarian work and continued to reach more people who had to leave their homes because of the violence, people whose needs are growing."

A distribution of food rations to nearly 94,000 people started this week in an area called Minkamen, in Awerial County, the site of the largest concentration of displaced people in the country. Each household will receive a food ration. "We already distributed food and other essential items in January. But the situation is dire, and continuous support is required," said Mireille George, the ICRC delegate in charge of the distribution. "We set up a convoy route that will enable us to distribute food for the next two weeks. We hope things will improve for the people in Minkamen."

Resumption of humanitarian work in several parts of the country

ICRC staff were recently able to go to several remote regions, such as Pariang, Malakal, northern Jonglei and areas west of Juba, to determine which needs are most urgent and to prepare to help the many people there. In Bor, where the ICRC was the first organization to return, it assessed the impact of the violence. "The market and residential areas have been badly damaged. While the situation remains tense, we are already planning how we can help rebuild certain structures," said Mr Mabeck. The ICRC and the South Sudan Red Cross provided the local authorities with over 400 body bags and with such items as gloves and masks for use in collecting dead bodies.

In Waat, northern Jonglei, the ICRC has set up a small base which it will use to respond to the humanitarian consequences of the conflict. It is attending to the needs of people who fled the violence in areas such as Bor and Malakal and who are now in places such as Waat and Lankien. It also intends to improve water systems in these areas as a matter of priority.

A surgical team has returned to Malakal Teaching Hospital. Despite lingering tensions, they have been performing operations on a daily basis and treating children. The ICRC continues to provide support for surgical teams working in the Juba Military Hospital. Altogether, ICRC-supported staff have performed over 900 operations and provided care for over 1,250 inpatients in Jubal Military Hospital, Malakal Teaching Hospital, Bentiu Hospital and Leer Hospital. Two other surgical teams are being deployed in rural areas in Jonglei state.

Since the crisis erupted on 15 December 2013, in cooperation with the South Sudan Red Cross and with the support of the Kenya Red Cross Society and several Red Cross societies, the ICRC has also:

• provided clean water for nearly 40,000 displaced people in Juba, Malakal, Bentiu, Wunrok, Waat and Lankien;

• provided food for over 110,000 people in Wau, Bentiu, Juba, Minkamen and Malakal;

• provided tents and tarpaulins as emergency shelter for nearly 112,000 displaced people around the country;

• provided cooking utensils, emergency shelter materials, jerrycans, blankets and other household essentials for over 100,000 people;

• delivered fishing equipment to nearly 17,000 people in Awerial County;

• visited over 1,630 people held in various places of detention;

• arranged for more than 1,500 phone calls to be made from various camps to enable displaced people to contact family members;

• registered 27 children separated from their families.