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South Sudan: UN launches major aid effort after clashes in troubled region

Article / Review by on January 6, 2012 – 8:47 pmNo Comments

South Sudan: UN launches major aid effort after clashes in troubled region

Mothers and their children near Pibor, in Jonglei state, South Sudan, who have been displaced by ethnic tensions in the areaMothers and their children near Pibor, in Jonglei state, South Sudan, who have been displaced by ethnic tensions in the area

A massive humanitarian operation to bring succour to people affected by inter-ethnic violence in South Sudan’s state of Jonglei is under way with United Nations having carried out relief needs assessments in most of the affected areas over the past 72 hours, a UN official said today.

Assessments have been carried in Pibor, Likuangole, Boma and Walgak, according to Elisabeth Byrs, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who told reporters in Geneva that more evaluations would be carried out in Fertait and Bilait.

UN agencies and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reported significant humanitarian needs in all areas assessed and they believe that a similar situation prevails in areas yet to be visited, according to Ms. Byrs. An estimated 50,000 people are thought to be in need of help.

Right now our primary aim… is to try and identify where the approximately 60,000 people who have fled from their homes are.

Last weekend a column of about 6,000 armed youths from the Luo Nuer tribe attacked the town of Pibor, where there is a concentrated Murle population, as part of ongoing clashes between the two communities related mainly to cattle rustling and grazing land. Most residents had fled the town before the attack, seeking refuge in the bush.

Ms. Byrs added that while the situation was currently calm, the influx of people returning to Pibor continued and the number of those registered stood at 942 households or 4,710 individuals by yesterday.

In Boma in the south-eastern part of Pibor County, some 1,700 people had been registered as displaced as of yesterday. Monitoring for further outbreaks of violence would continue, she added.

“Right now our primary aim… is to try and identify where the approximately 60,000 people who have fled from their homes are,” said Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, in an interview with UN Radio. She said UNMISS is continuing to carry our air reconnaissance in an effort to find those who fled their villages.

“In the case of many of the cities where people evacuated from, we are seeing relatively large return movement… but there a number of villages that were burned completely to the ground, for example, Likuangole and in that case people are not coming back and that’s because there is nothing to come back to,” said Ms. Grande.

She said that the South Sudanese Government yesterday declared Jonglei a disaster zone and appealed to humanitarian agencies to step up assistance.

“All of these areas, with the exception of Boma, can only be reached by air. So in logistical terms we have to face the fact this is going to be a very complicated operation,” she added.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) voiced concern that food shortages could reach crisis levels.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said one of five children wounded during the violence had died during medical evacuation, according to the agency’s spokesperson Marixie Mercado, who added that reports of nine children being abducted had been verified. Some 45 unaccompanied minors had been registered.

In a related development, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres will travel to South Sudan this weekend and is scheduled to visit a refugee site in Mabaan on Sunday, according to a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency in Geneva.

UNHCR is supporting the newly-independent country’s Government to reintegrate some 660,000 returnees, including 360,000 people who have come from Sudan and some 300,000 who went back other neighbouring countries, said the spokesperson, William Spindler.

Recent fighting in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states has forced some 75,000 Sudanese refugees to flee across the border into South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile states. An estimated 23,000 other Sudanese have sought refugee status in Ethiopia.

UNHCR has started airlifting relief supplies into the towns of Malakal and Mabaan, with 16 flights having delivered 1,450 family tents, 10,000 kitchen sets, 18,000 blankets, 18,000 jerry cans, plastic sheets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and other essential relief items since 20 December.

Mr. Guterres will proceed to Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, on Tuesday and from there travel to Kassala in eastern Sudan, the scene of one of the most protracted refugee situations in the world.

Some 70,000 refugees, most of them Eritreans reside in 12 camps with the host community facing similar hardship – acute poverty, drought, lack of access to health and education, land degradation and high unemployment. Mr. Guterres will discuss programmes aimed at enhancing self-reliance with local authorities.


About the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

OCHA is the part of the United Nations Secretariat responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. OCHA also ensures there is a framework within which each actor can contribute to the overall response effort.

OCHA’s mission is to:

  • Mobilize and coordinate effective and principled humanitarian action in partnership with national and international actors in order to alleviate human suffering in disasters and emergencies.
  • Advocate the rights of people in need.
  • Promote preparedness and prevention.
  • Facilitate sustainable solutions.

How we deliver   

OCHA’s Strategic Framework ensures that OCHA delivers on its core mandate, while responding to contemporary global challenges. The three pillars of the Strategic Framework are:

1. Partnerships: broadening the coalition for multilateral humanitarian action
The scale and scope of global challenges requires working together in new ways, with new partners. Partnership has always been integral to OCHA’s efforts. Sustained relations, built on trust and mutual respect, are vital when preparing for and responding to humanitarian emergencies. OCHA has a unique position within the international humanitarian system to convene and influence agendas. We will do this more strategically, with the aim of creating a more enabling environment for humanitarian action.

2. Service provider: building a better system
The expectations of OCHA have evolved since humanitarian reform. We will ensure that our services and support to partners also evolve and meet clients’ needs. We are focused on helping partners more predictably through humanitarian coordination leadership, strengthening coordination mechanisms, and improving the evidence base for humanitarian decision-making, planning and resource allocation.

3. Reliability and professionalism: creating better staffing and surge solutions to be there when it counts     
In 2010, OCHA will introduce surge solutions to ensure the right people are on the ground immediately after a new disaster. This will be coordinated with longer-term staffing to ensure continuity of OCHA presence.

OCHA people

OCHA is its people. From 35 offices around the world, some 1,900 specialized and dedicated OCHA staff work to ensure that effective assistance reaches millions of humanitarian beneficiaries in four continents. - United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)


About United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)

Fighting hunger worldwide United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Logo

The World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.

“In emergencies, we get food to where it is needed, saving the lives of victims of war, civil conflict and natural disasters. After the cause of an emergency has passed, we use food to help communities rebuild their shattered lives.”

WFP is part of the United Nations system and is voluntarily funded.

Born in 1961, WFP pursues a vision of the world in which every man, woman and child has access at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life. We work towards that vision with our sister UN agencies in Rome — the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) — as well as other government, UN and NGO partners.

In 2011 we aim to reach more than 90 million people with food assistance in more than 70 countries. Around 10,000 people work for the organization, most of them in remote areas, directly serving the hungry poor.

WFP’s five objectives:

  1. Save lives and protect livelihoods in emergencies
  2. Prepare for emergencies
  3. Restore and rebuild lives after emergencies
  4. Reduce chronic hunger and undernutrition everywhere
  5. Strengthen the capacity of countries to reduce hunger

WFP’s Mission statement

WFP is the food aid arm of the United Nations system. Food aid is one of the many instruments that can help to promote food security, which is defined as access of all people at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life. ¹ The policies governing the use of World Food Programme food aid must be oriented towards the objective of eradicating hunger and poverty. The ultimate objective of food aid should be the elimination of the need for food aid.

Targeted interventions are needed to help to improve the lives of the poorest people – people who, either permanently or during crisis periods, are unable to produce enough food or do not have the resources to otherwise obtain the food that they and their households require for active and healthy lives.

Consistent with its mandate, which also reflects the principle of universality, WFP will continue to:

  • use food aid to support economic and social development;
  • meet refugee and other emergency food needs, and the associated logistics support; and
  • promote world food security in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations and FAO.

The core policies and strategies that govern WFP activities are to provide food aid:

  • to save lives in refugee and other emergency situations;
  • to improve the nutrition and quality of life of the most vulnerable people at critical times in their lives; and
  • to help build assets and promote the self-reliance of poor people and communities, particularly through labour-intensive works programmes.

Share food, change lives


About United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) logo

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:


About the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people.

In more than six decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives.

Today, a staff of some 7,685 people in more than 125 countries continues to help some 33.9 million persons.


> United Nations (UN).

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN / Eskinder Debebe The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.


* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

More about United Nations (UN)

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