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In South Sudan, protection of civilians ‘critical part’ of UN mandate

Displaced people at the Protection of Civilians (POC) site in Bor, South Sudan.
Displaced people at the Protection of Civilians (POC) site in Bor, South Sudan.

In South Sudan, protection of civilians ‘critical part’ of UN mandate

United Nations peacekeepers must continue to provide critical protections for civilians in South Sudan as the country slowly emerges from a year-long stretch of internecine conflict, the head of the UN Mission (UNMISS) there declared today.

During a visit to the city of Bor, Ellen Margrethe Løj, who is also the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan, commended the efforts of the Second Ethiopian Battalion and UN civilian and military staff in maintaining the UNMISS mandate. More than 1,200 Ethiopian peacekeepers are currently deployed to monitor South Sudan’s fragile peace and maintain footholds in the cities of Malakal, Bentiu, and the capital, Juba.

“It is a critical part of the Mission’s mandate to protect civilians, both inside the UN camps and outside,” said Ms. Løj, as she reviewed the “blue helmets” at a Medal Parade. “Our troops must ensure safety and security beyond the camps, out in the communities. I am convinced that the Ethiopian Contingents will be in the front line in this regard.”

The security situation in South Sudan deteriorated steadily over the past year since political in-fighting between South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, started in mid-December 2013. The hostilities subsequently turned into a full-fledged conflict that has sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to UNMISS bases around the country. The crisis has uprooted an estimated 1.9 million people and placed more than 7 million at risk of hunger and disease.

Nonetheless, a recent peace deal between the warring factions has fostered hope of a definitive end to the year-long conflict.

In a press release, UNMISS reported that Ms. Løj also met with UN staff during a visit to the Organization’s compound in Bor where she remained “very impressed” by their efforts to adjust to the current situation. In addition, she congratulated them for their “commitment to the Mission’s mandate as they continue to protect civilians in Jonglei State including those sheltering in the Mission’s compound.”

According to estimates, some 112,000 civilians are currently protected by UNMISS at the Mission’s protection sites throughout South Sudan while more than 2,600 civilians have found safety in Bor alone.

The Special Representative also visited the Sri Lankan military field hospital which has treated 1,360 people since its founding in June 2014 and congratulated the medical staff for their dedication.