Juba — A senior United Nations official has told the Security Council that South Sudan is on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, calling for international pressure on the country's warring parties to end the almost eight-month-long conflict.
The deputy U.N. peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet on Wednesday briefed the Security Council on the situation in South Sudan after a recent surge in violence between the government and rebel forces in Upper Nile and Northern Bahr el-Ghazal states, and the resumption of the slow moving peace talks in Addis Ababa.
"After three years of independence, South Sudan is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe and a protracted internal conflict," Mulet told the 15-member body.
"This is a man-made crisis, and those responsible for it have been slow in resolving it. Both sides continue to believe that they can achieve more through the pursuit of a military option," he stressed.
He further said the humanitarian operation in South Sudan is now "constitutes the biggest aid operation inside any single country", adding the funding however falls short in comparison with the needs.
UN agencies estimate that some 3.9 million persons are facing alarming levels of food insecurity. The violence which erupted in December 2013, displaced 1.1 million people as 434,000 fled to the neighbouring countries.
Over 50,000 children are at risk of dying as a consequence of acute malnutrition while 115 people died from cholera in the recent weeks as the epidemic disease continues to grow, with more than 5,300 cases.
CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE
The UN assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, on the other hand told the Council members that the parties in the peace talks which resumed on 4 August, are now discussing the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement.
"There is an urgent need for the international community to speak with one voice to incentivise the parties on a meaningful participation in the peace talks, but more importantly, caution them with one voice on the consequences of impeding the peace process as well as on the futility of pursuing the military option," he stressed.
Mullet said a peace agreement must be reached without further delay on how to end the conflict and engage in the reconciliation process.
He also said that all the UN institutions and member states implicated in the implementation of the four objectives included in the new mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) as per resolution no 2155 (2014).
On 29 May, the Security Council extended the UNMISS mandate for another year and tasked the peacekeeping mission with the protection of civilians, promotion of human rights and accountability, facilitation of humanitarian assistance, and support for the cessation of hostilities.
A South Sudanese civil society entity described the humanitarian situation in the country as "man-made", saying it strongly welcomes the UN official position on the matter.
"The delay in reaching a peace deal for settling the current political crisis in the country is mainly caused by the warring parties of South Sudan. They are mainly interested in negotiating for political gains at the expense of the suffering population," Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) said in a statement issued Thursday.
"IGAD should push for an end to the peace talks without delays for the sake our citizens, mostly women, children and the elderly persons in the country," it added.