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UN chief for humanitarian aid depicts bleak picture in South Sudan

Xinhua,December 08, 2017 Adjust font size:

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- The top UN official for humanitarian aid has warned that the humanitarian situation in South Sudan is dire and humanitarian access remains impeded.

The number of severely food insecure people has steadily increased each year. Some 1.25 million people are in emergency phase of food insecurity, one step away from famine, Mark Lowcock, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, told the Security Council on Thursday.

The number of South Sudanese in emergency phase of food insecurity almost doubled over a year. In early 2018, half of the population will be reliant on emergency food, said Lowcock.

Seven million people inside the country -- almost two-thirds of the remaining population -- still need humanitarian assistance. About 1.9 million people are internally displaced, of whom some 210,000 seek safety in protection sites located on premises of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, or UNMISS, he said.

Only one in 10 people has access to basic sanitation which helps prevent deadly diseases. Only half of the country's schools are functioning and 2 million children are currently out of school. In every other household, a woman or girl experienced gender-based violence in the past year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Reported rates of violence against women and girls in South Sudan are double the global average and among the highest in the world.

Allowing and facilitating rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access for civilians in need is an obligation for all parties and essential for humanitarian relief organizations to effectively save lives, he said. But the government, opposition forces and non-state armed actors have continued to interfere with the delivery of humanitarian assistance in recent weeks. Ongoing fighting also prevents aid delivery.

With the beginning of the dry season, military offenses have further intensified in the past days, forcing civilians to flee, he said.

At least 95 humanitarian workers have been killed in line of duty since the start of the conflict in late 2013, and at least 28 this year alone.

Lowcock indicated that the tragedy in South Sudan is purely man-made. The suffering faced by civilians is primarily the result of actions by the parties in their conduct of the conflict.

The alarming level of food insecurity, for example, is directly linked to restrictions on people's freedom of movement, their access to humanitarian assistance and their ability to plant or harvest, said Lowcock. The impact of conflict on agriculture is particularly severe in the Greater Equatorias, which was typically a surplus-producing area before the conflict, but is now seeing production deficits due to insecurity and related access challenges. Most farmers from the most productive area along the border with Uganda are now in refugee camps inside Uganda, he said.

Despite the many challenges, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners have reached 5 million people, said Lowcock. Enditem