The head of the United Nations refugee agency today urged the international community to show greater solidarity with South Sudan as it strives to cope with enormous humanitarian challenges as tensions between communities cause internal displacement amid a refugee influx from Sudan.
“This country is facing at the present moment, six months after independence… a number of huge humanitarian challenges that needs massive solidarity from the international community,” said António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who is on visit to South Sudan, in an interview with UN Radio.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July last year after voting overwhelmingly for separation in a referendum held as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the decades of civil war.
Fighting in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states has caused some 80,000 Sudanese refugees to flee across the border into Unity and Upper Nile states in South Sudan. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been delivering tens and other relief supplies to assistant the refugees.
“UNHCR… is directly engaged in relation to the support of refugees that are coming now in great numbers fleeing from South Kordofan and Blue Nile and have been received in an extremely hospitable way by the people and the Government of South Sudan in Upper Nile and Unity states,” said Mr. Guterres.
He said 60 planeloads of tents and other relief items had been delivered for the 80,000 refugees and that UNHCR was working with partners to ensure that they have food, water, heath care and protection.
On the situation on South Sudan’s Jonglei state where the recent outbreak of inter-ethnic clashes between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities resulted in major internal population movements, Mr. Guterres commended the work of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the country’s Government in preventing an escalation.
“The UN mission… has done a fantastic job to avoid an escalation of this conflict and to avoid much worse the consequences,” he said.
“We have been closely cooperating with the mission, but I think one should recognize the leadership of the mission together with the authorities of the country has been exemplary,” he added.
UNMISS has reinforced its presence in key areas of Jonglei to protect civilians following the recent violence and is continuing to conduct daily air and land patrols. But the mission has repeatedly stressed that the Government has the main responsibility of restoring peace and stability. The Government also deployed extra security forces in Jonglei.