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UN chief tells South Sudan leaders to heal suffering they caused

South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia.
UNHCR/L. Godinho
South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia.

UN chief tells South Sudan leaders to heal suffering they caused

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today blamed the dire humanitarian situation in South Sudan on the country’s leaders, telling them: “You opened the wounds that have caused so much suffering. Now heal them.”

And in a message to world leaders, the UN chief said “the international community must remain committed to impose punitive measures on those responsible for the violence and impeding the peace process.”

Mr. Ban delivered the messages at a meeting chaired by UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos and held on the side lines of the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate that drew attention to the humanitarian situation in the world’s youngest nation.

“The United Nations is supporting the people of South Sudan with the biggest humanitarian operation ever undertaken in a country,” Mr. Ban said.

“Around 4 million people – more than a third of the entire country – suffer alarming food insecurity,” he said. “Unless we act quickly, some 50,000 children could die before the end of this year.”

The conflict that began in mid-December 2013 in South Sudan sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to UN peacekeeping bases around the country, and placed millions at risk of hunger and disease. Despite the signing of a ceasefire, South Sudan has experienced several bouts of violence over the past couple of months.

In addition to those sheltering at UN bases, Mr. Ban recounted that nearly 2 million people have fled their homes, and nearly half a million have crossed borders into neighbouring countries. “The dire humanitarian situation is primarily man made,” he said.

Ms. Amos, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, announced that she was releasing $60 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for South Sudan and the region. The Fund receives contributions from various donors – mainly governments, but also private companies, foundations, charities and individuals.

She noted that while the crisis of famine has been averted for the immediate future, the situation remains “extremely fragile.”

“We have to put the people first,” Ms. Amos said.

Blaming the leaders of South Sudan for a country that is failing its people, the Secretary-General added: “You opened the wounds that have caused so much suffering. Now heal them. The parties owe this to their people and future generations.”

He called again on the leadership of both sides – the Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition – to find an inclusive and mutually agreed power-sharing arrangement to start a transitional phase of governance.

The UN chief said those responsible for atrocities must face justice through a mechanism that meets international standards, stressing that “there can be no amnesty for anyone responsible for killing innocent civilians.”

Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that an additional 5,000 peacekeepers were on their way to the country, but also noted the many impediments to the freedom of movement of both peacekeepers and humanitarian workers that are undermining their capacity to do their jobs in South Sudan.

The interactive session on South Sudan featured a number of speakers, including top officials from partner humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).