20 May 2014

South Sudan: Aid for South Sudan - Too Little Too Late?

Photo: VOA
A nurse at a Doctors Without Borders cholera treatment center in Gudele.

International donors have pledged over $600 million (438 million euros) for emergency aid to South Sudan at a donor conference in Oslo, in a bid to avert a famine.

Delegates of 40 countries and 50 international organizations attended a donor conference to raise emergency humanitarian aid for South Sudan. By the end of the conference on Tuesday (20.05.2014), more than $600 million (438 million euros) had been raised. "This figure represents just about a doubling of the available funds for the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan," Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende said.

Before the gathering began, the United Nations had pinned a price tag of $1.3 billion on donor conference. Of the $1.8 billion needed, only $536 million had been secured. The sum now pledged at the close of the conference is in addition to the 536 million, but falls far short what the UN said was required.

Norway, the host of the conference, had advanced $63 million ahead of the conference. "We fear that the crisis will worsen significantly in the coming months," the country's foreign minister Boerge Brende said in a statement on Monday (19.05.2014)

The situation is worsening by the day

As the conference kicked off, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned that this year alone up to 50,000 children were at risk of dying from malnutrition. This would further raise the death toll in the country after thousands of people have already died in the fighting between President Salva Kiir's camp and that of his former deputy turned rebel leader, Riek Machar. In addition, Cholera was spreading rapidly in the overcrowded refugee camps, the UN organization said.

In the capital Juba alone, more than 30,000 people have been packed into completely overcrowded UN refugee camps with catastrophic sanitary conditions. On Monday, the aid organization CARE published a distressing report about the rapid increase of sexual violence against women and girls in South Sudan, who were being abused and killed by both parties to the conflict.

Aid agencies estimate that there are already a quarter of a million children suffering from malnutrition in South Sudan

Earlier, the European Union warned that there would be a risk of famine in the second half of the year. International relief organizations are trying to make sure that food reaches the country by autumn. The European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) estimates that 7.3 million people could go hungry as early as August.

Because of the rainy season, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wants to organize an airlift, modeled on Operation Lifeline Sudan. From 1989 to 2005, at the height of the fighting between northern and southern Sudan, basic foodstuffs were dropped from the air.

A new Africa policy, but, please, not in South Sudan

While the EU has frozen 80 million euros in financial aid because of a "crass" misuse of oil revenues and is considering imposing sanctions on the warmongers, an initiative by Christoph Strässer, the German government's commissioner for human rights, has largely fizzled out. After a visit to South Sudan and apparently very insistent appeals by the UN humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, Strässer had urged that the German presence on the ground be increased. "If the United Nations were to request more support from Germany, then I personally feel we should fulfill the requests."

So far, a deployment of up to 50 German soldiers for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has been authorized by the German parliament, but only 15 are presently on the ground.

Not all the peacekeepers mandated are being actively deployed on the ground

In December, the UN Security Council decided to increase the number of peacekeepers to 12,500 soldiers and 1,300 police officers, but only 8,700 of them are being actively deployed, according to Lanzer.

Apparently, the German government's new Africa strategy, with increased visibility on the "continent of opportunity," has not yet taken off in South Sudan. Although Germany's minister for economic cooperation and development, Gerd Müller, has pledged additional humanitarian assistance to South Sudan, he clearly rejected any German military intervention. In both the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry, there appears to be little left of the initial enthusiasm for Africa.

Stalled peace talks in Ethiopia

While pledges by South Sudan's partners are made in Oslo on Tuesday, the East African regional bloc IGAD, which has been mediating in the conflict, has once again postponed peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The time until June 4, when the peace talks are set to resume, is to be used for intensive shuttle diplomacy and talks with both camps. That these efforts by IGAD's chief mediator, former Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin, will somehow seriously impress the two camps is highly doubtful. The most recent ceasefire agreement between Kiir and Machar hardly held for more than a day, before new fighting was reported.

There is an African saying that "where elephants fight, the grass suffers." On the first day of the conference, it was also being cited in the hallways of the classy conference hotel in Oslo.


Date 20.05.2014

Author Ludger Schadomsky / gu

Editor Asumpta Lattus

Keywords South Sudan, Kiir, Machar, famine, refugees, malnutrition, donor conference

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