East Africa: UN Relief Chief Warns of Looming Disaster Amid Linked Crises in Sudan and South Sudan

Photo: Al Jazeera English
South Sudan's six-color flag

Deeply concerned by the escalating and increasingly interlinked crises in Sudan and South Sudan, where violence is sparking refugee flows and disrupting harvests again this year, the top United Nations relief official warned today that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating for hundreds of thousands of people in both countries.

"I told [Security] Council Members that this suffering is taking place in an increasingly complex environment. Reputable sources sight estimates of 170,000 people displaced within [Sudan People's Liberation Movement] SPLM-North areas in the first half of this year," Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos told reporters after briefing the Council today on the "increasingly complex" situation.

"I warned the Council if we don't take urgent action now, we will see a major humanitarian crisis unfolding in South Sudan with respect to food insecurity and the possibility of famine," she said.

Ms. Amos expressed deep concern over the intensified bombing and fighting during the planting season- May, June and July- urging that if the violence does not stop, it will have a calamitous impact on families' ability to feed themselves.

"We have already heard that the famine early warning systems network has forecast that emergency levels of food insecurity are likely to persist among the internally displaced and host communities in SPLM-North controlled areas of South Kordofan between now and September," Ms. Amos said.

Food security assessments in May and June of this year have already indicated acute food and livelihood crises and an emergency situation in 10 counties in South Sudan. A warning of a possible famine for the months of July and August was also given.

"I warned the Council that if aerial bombardment continues to disrupt agricultural activities, we can expect the impact to extend well beyond the harvest in September," Ms. Amos said.

Compounding the suffering is the bombings and attacks on hospitals and other humanitarian outposts, she said, and whether deliberate or indiscriminate are clearly unacceptable and in direct violation with international humanitarian law, as well as Council resolution 2046.

It's been over two years since the Security Council adopted that resolution in May 2012 expressing deep concern at the humanitarian impact of fighting between the Government of Sudan and the SPLM-North in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Yet, hundreds of thousands of innocent people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile continue to be affected by war while no progress has been made to ensure that they have access to even the most basic humanitarian assistance.

Children have not been able to be vaccinated against polio in the SPLM-North areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which are both controlled by the SPLM-North.

Even more alarming, the conflict in South Sudan has effectively blocked off traditional areas of refuge across the border. It has disrupted the cross border movement of goods and services coming into South Kordofan and Blue Nile, causing even greater suffering to the 200,000 Sudanese refugees in the Blue Nile and Unity States and close to 83,000 refugees from South Sudan currently in Sudan.

Humanitarian workers continue to appeal to all parties to allow basic assistance to be provided to people who most need it. However, challenges in both Sudan and South Sudan seem to only be aggregating.

"We're seeing significant interconnections between the humanitarian situations between the two countries," she said. The deepening conflicts in Darfur, continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation in South Sudan, refugee outflows, and worrying food insecurity across the region only continue to compound challenges.

"Given the dire situation in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur and the unfolding humanitarian disaster in South Sudan, it is clear that urgent action is needed now and I appealed to the Council to take action to ensure immediate and unhindered action for the UN and our humanitarian partners as called for under resolution 2046," she said.

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