UN humanitarian chief hopes South Sudan ceasefire will ease civilian suffering
“The violence and abuses we have seen since 15 December threaten the future of this young country,” Valerie Amos told reporters in the capital, Juba, as she concluded a three-day visit to see first-hand the impact of the conflict on the nation’s people.
The conflict between pro- and anti-Government supporters in South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in July 2011, has displaced more than 702,000 people across the country and sent another 123,000 fleeing to neighbouring countries in just over six weeks.
There are hopes that the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in Ethiopia last week by representatives of President Salva Kiir and former deputy president Riek Machar will lead to an end to the fighting and help alleviate the plight of civilians in need.
“I am encouraged by the agreement…that was signed last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I hope [it] will lead to an environment where people will feel able to return to their homes and rebuild their lives,” said Ms. Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
She noted that 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.
Ms. Amos, who met with a range of representatives, welcomed Mr. 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,” she stated. “The development gains made over the last two years have been severely dented by the recent conflict. The whole international community hopes that the current situation will stabilize, so that efforts can continue in terms of longer-term development.”
She called strongly 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.
In addition, she praised the work of humanitarian organizations that remained in the country during this “tense and difficult” period, and delivered urgently needed assistance. 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,” she noted, adding that looting of aid agency warehouses and assets, as well as aid workers being subjected to violence, has severely hampered efforts to assist the population.