The United Nations and its humanitarian partners in South Sudan have for the first time this year gained access to areas in Pibor County where thousands of people have been stranded in the swampy bush, a senior UN official said, urging communities there to “halt the cycle of violence” that has killed and displaced civilians in Jonglei state.
“Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and UN agencies have met communities near Dorain, Fertait and Labrab to assess their needs and mount a humanitarian response,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Toby Lanzer said in a statement. The response includes urgently needed medical attention, in addition to ongoing programmes in other parts of Jonglei State.
Fighting between Government forces and armed groups in Jonglei has displaced thousands of civilians since January. The UN and its partners have had access to most of the 1.5 million people in the area, but were unable to reach a couple of the villages from which people fled and were hiding in the bush.
The access gained this Saturday and Sunday is a “significant breakthrough,” Mr. Lanzer told UN Radio, facilitated by local and state authorities, as well as non-state partners.
With the rainy season started and expected to last through December, the basic concerns of the families in the area are staying dry and warm, food and medical needs. Mr. Lanzer said the medical cases encountered include serious tropical wounds and others where surgery is urgently needed to preserve limbs and save lives.
Most importantly, he stressed, is the need for freedom of movement: “We have a situation where we want people to gain access to the main towns of Jonglei State where the NGOs have been based in the past… it's going to be difficult for us, from a logistics perspective, to go in there and set up a field hospital or to establish a food aid distribution.”
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said it, along with the Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO), is attending to some 200 casualties in the remote village of Manyabol.
A six-person UNMISS medical team treated the wounded, while the rest of the platoon helped secure and prepare the helicopter landing strip for arriving flights used to airlift casualties to hospital.
In his statement, Mr. Lanzer called urgently on the Government of South Sudan, as well as national, local and traditional leaders of all communities in Jonglei to halt the cycle of violence that is leading to senseless loss of lives and suffering amongst civilians in the country that last week marked its second independence anniversary.