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South Sudan: Humanitarian situation critical before rainy season

11-04-2014 Operational Update No 06/14

Four months after the beginning of the conflict, humanitarian needs continue to increase in South Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced. Tens of thousands need medical care. With fighting continuing in several areas and the rainy season approaching, the ICRC is concerned.

Minkamen. People continue to arrive and settle on the northern banks of the Nile. Tens of thousands of Dinka people fled the violence in the city of Bor, on the other side of the Nile, mostly women and very young children. ©ICRC/Marco Yuri Jimenez

"We are concerned about the worsening of the humanitarian situation. There is growing food insecurity since the production and marketing of food have been disrupted in many places by violence or displacement," said Melker Mabeck, head of the ICRC delegation in South Sudan. "This, combined with disruptions to water and health services where they exist, means that needs will only become more critical."

"The longer the conflict persists and security is lacking, the more difficult it will be for people to obtain food and meet their other basic needs," he added. In addition to responding to the emergency by providing food, water and medical assistance, the ICRC is helping farmers and livestock herders in violence-affected communities to maintain their livelihoods wherever possible.

The Minkamen displaced persons settlement on the left bank of the Nile. Two young girls carrying water.  

The Minkamen displaced persons settlement on the left bank of the Nile. Two young girls carrying water.
© ICRC / Marco Yuri Jimenez

Fighting continues in some parts of South Sudan. "We remind the parties of their obligation to abide by the rules of international humanitarian law," said Mr Mabeck. "They must respect civilians and their property. Civilians and people no longer taking part in hostilities must be spared. Commanders must enforce discipline, issue clear orders and punish those who break the rules."

The ICRC is also reminding all parties to respect medical personnel and facilities. "Anyone who is wounded or sick, whether civilian or combatant, must be allowed access to health care, regardless of which side or ethnic group the person is associated with," said Mr Mabeck.

Minkamen displaced persons settlement. A woman waits in line with her children during an ICRC distribution. 

Minkamen displaced persons settlement. A woman waits in line with her children during an ICRC distribution.
© ICRC / Marco Yuri Jimenez

"We know from long experience in southern Sudan that the approaching rainy season will have a direct impact on the population. It will also have an effect on the ICRC's work, and that too may be felt by the population," he said. Roads will become impassable and aircraft will not be able to use landing strips that have turned to mud. "We have boosted our logistical capacity and will continue to adapt our response, but it will still be a challenge to accomplish what we set out to do," he added.

South Sudan is the site of one of the ICRC's largest operations in the world in terms of resources committed. The organization currently has 600 staff in the country working in close cooperation with the South Sudan Red Cross. Its annual budget for the country comes to 64 million Swiss francs (around 72 million US dollars). Four ICRC mobile surgical teams – more than in any other country – are currently working in various parts of South Sudan.

"We will soon need more resources to respond to the ever-growing needs," said Mr Mabeck.

Since the beginning of the latest emergency, in mid-December, in close cooperation with the South Sudanese Red Cross the ICRC has:

  • provided food for around 160,000 people in the states of Lakes, Unity, Upper Nile, Warrap, Jonglei, Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal and Western Equatoria, and in Juba;
  • supplied an additional 770 tonnes of essential food for patients and detainees;
  • provided household essentials for over 220,000 people throughout the country;
  • vaccinated nearly 44,000 head of livestock, benefitting an estimated 22,000 people in Northern Bahr el Ghazal who depend on the animals for their living;
  • provided over 24,000 people with seed and tools for their own farming and over 27,000 with fishing equipment in certain areas;
  • provided clean water for nearly 96,000 people in displaced and other conflict-affected communities as well as in health and detention facilities in various parts of the country;
  • performed over 1,200 operations and provided post-operative care in eight different health-care facilities around the country;
  • provided 24 first-aid and other health-care facilities with wound-dressing materials and other medical supplies;
  • visited over 1,800 people held in various places of detention;
  • arranged for nearly 5,000 phone calls to be made between family members.

For further information, please contact:
Frédéric Capdevila, ICRC Juba, tel: +211 912 360 038
Jean-Yves Clémenzo, ICRC Geneva tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17