4 January 2014

South Sudan: UN Concerned for Civilians in S. Sudan Conflict Zones

The UN is continuing to provide shelter to more than 57,000 civilians at its bases across the country, despite a drop in numbers over recent days, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said at a press conference in New York on Thursday.

Thousands of civilians have taken shelter from violence in South Sudan inside UN base camps across the country

Haq said that 246 police officers have been deployed to South Sudan to strengthen security and order for civilians seeking refuge inside its bases.

A medical team from the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI) also arrived in Juba on Thursday to bolster support at the UN bases in the capital, while Logistical support for air operations is being provided by the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In a New Year message to the people of South Sudan on Wednesday, the secretary-general's special representative for South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, said that both the leaders of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Nations are calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the release of all political detainees, political dialogue and humanitarian access.

Johnson also warned of the risk of a cycle of violence between communities in South Sudan, urging all parties to take decisive steps for peace.

She has stressed that those responsible for accountability for grave human rights violations must be held accountable, saying UN teams were continuing their investigations.

Fighting broke out in Juba on 15 December between rival factions of the presidential guards amid ongoing tensions between president Salva Kiir and former vice-president Riek Machar, who is accused of orchestrating an alleged coup attempt to over throw the government.

The conflict has increasingly divided along tribal fault lines, with fighting spreading to Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.

The UN estimates some 194,000 people have been displaced by the current crisis.

According to the latest report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an inter-agency assessment in Awerial in Lakes state estimates that 76,000 people have been displaced to the area, mostly from Jonglei state, which has been the centre of a struggle between the South Sudanese army (SPLA) and rebel forces.

OCHA says a multi-sector response has been launched o deal with the unfolding humanitarian situation, with around 107,000 people reached so far, inside and outside UN bases.

The UN is attempting to plus a $166 million shortfall in its $209 million response package needed to respond to humanitarian needs on the ground.

According to OCHA, armed clashes continued to be reported in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states, with the security situation in the country remains calm but unpredictable in many areas, including Juba.

Despite a decrease in the numbers of civilians sheltering in UN bases in Malakal and Bor, OCHA says there have been continuous flows of people fleeing their homes over the past three days from multiple locations.

OCHA said large numbers of displaced people remain concentrated in Bentiu (8,000), Malakal (11,500) and Pariang (2,500).

It further said that it had serious protection concerns for civilians in conflict-affected areas, with credible reports of targeting civilians based on ethnicity and perceived political affiliation.

"This includes physical abuse such as killings, beatings, destruction and looting of property", the OCHA report said.

"Physical protection needs associated with civilians being caught in active combat crossfire is also of grave concern", the report adds.

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