The lack of food reaching people in Bor will soon have deadly consequences, as The Telegraph reports from Juba (December 30, 2013):
At least 7,000 civilians, including vulnerable orphans, are going without food inside a United Nations camp in South Sudan as they shelter from the country's civil war. The refugees at the UN base in the town of Bor receive clean water and protection from peacekeeping troops. But the security situation is so volatile that little food has been distributed--and some inside the camp have eaten nothing for days.
 And finally, the inherent difficulties of conducting humanitarian operations in South Sudan cannot be forgotten, for these difficulties translate into shortages of food and medicine, as well as equipment for water purification and bore-hole digging. In the presence of ongoing fighting, the challenges are almost overwhelming (the UN has kept in South Sudan only "critical personnel"):
Toby Lanzer, the humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, says the recent rainy season has left many roads impassable. "We have to conduct many of our operations by air. So running an aid operation in this environment, when you don't have precise information, is really very, very difficult and very expensive," he says. His office has appealed for $166 million just to provide the basics -- blankets, water, food and basic medical care -- through March. And then there's the politics. "As humanitarian coordinator, I'm dealing with the consequences of a political struggle which has turned particularly violent," Lanzer says. (National Public Radio, December 27, 2014)
What must be done--now
Political leaders in South Sudan who do not commit to an immediate cessation of hostilities, without conditions, help ensure that the current catastrophe will intensify with frightening speed. Modalities and mechanisms for formal cease-fire monitoring can be negotiated at greater leisure; what cannot wait another day is a military stand-down by both sides. The place to begin is Bor, now under control of Riek's forces and--according to SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer--fighting has already begun to move southward toward Juba (Washington Post [Nairobi], January 3, 2014). Other reports from the BBC (January 3) have the SPLA beginning an offensive against Bor involving tanks and artillery.
Why does Riek not declare a cease-fire in light of all this? His strategy here may be that described by a military analyst speaking to The Economist (January 3, 2014):
Machar may be able to hold the fledgling country's oil infrastructure to ransom. If he can chalk up some early victories--for instance, by taking and holding Bor--he may be better placed to sue for peace. As things stand, South Sudan may face a long civil war.
It is beyond dispiriting to think of the people of South Sudan once more "facing a long civil war." All causes, all personal interests, all quests for seizing or holding power must give way before the desperately urgent need to forestall such a war.
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