The United Nations has released $15 million from its humanitarian rapid response fund for critical relief operations in South Sudan, where over 230,000 people have been driven from their homes since fighting erupted between Government and opposition forces nearly a month ago.
"Conditions for the South Sudanese fleeing hostilities in their country are getting worse by the day," UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said in announcing the allocation from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
"With this CERF funding, UN humanitarian agencies will be better able to meet the needs of people desperately seeking shelter and safety," she said.
South Sudan, the world's youngest country which only gained independence in 2011 after seceding from Sudan, erupted in fighting on 15 December when President Salva Kiir said soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, dismissed last July, reportedly launched an attempted coup.
UN humanitarian partners in South Sudan now estimate that over 231,000 people have been displaced since hostilities began, including almost 60,000 who have sought shelter in UN bases. A further 42,800 have fled to neighbouring countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
CERF, established by the UN General Assembly seven years ago, has grown to become one of the largest and most reliable sources of humanitarian funding. Since 2006, it has disbursed more than $3.2 billion to emergencies in 88 countries, with donors pledging $404.6 million last month for 2014. CERF allocated almost $482 million in 2013, $11.6 million of it for South Sudan.
The UN humanitarian team in the country will ensure that the new funds go to the most critical needs, improving living conditions for tens of thousands of people in overcrowded camps and providing air support for medical evacuations and to enable relief workers to reach places that are inaccessible or too insecure to get to by road.
Since the country gained independence in July 2011, aid agencies have received almost $74.4 million from CERF for critical assistance, including food, clean water, shelter and health services.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, said today the humanitarian agencies have enough supplies at the moment because they are diverting material from other programmes and called on the international community to fund the full $209 million needed for relief operations over the next three months.
"We've certainly got about half of that, so that's a good start," he told UN radio. "But supplies will run out very, very quickly and we need to make sure that resources continue to be made available."
Meanwhile, a UN spokesperson reported today that the situation at the base in Bor in Jonglei State of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), where over 9,000 civilians are being protected, remains strained.
According to UNMISS, the outcome of the fighting in Bentiu in Upper Nile state is "unclear and fluid." Mr. Lanzer is currently assessing the humanitarian situation in the city, where explosions and fighting were reportedly heard this morning. Currently, more than 8,000 internally displaced people are being protected by 550 troops in the UN base at Bentiu.
In order to cope with the increasing numbers of civilians seeking shelter with the UN, the Mission reports that it is expanding its protection site.
Yesterday, UNMISS was finally able to undertake three flights to the city, where it delivered food supplies and medically evacuated 54 civilians back to Juba. UN flights had so far been unable to reach Bor for the past few days. An additional five UNMISS flights from Juba, carrying food, also arrived in the city today.