Ethiopia setting the highest humanitarian standards but the rest of the international community must shoulder their share of the burden
(New York, 23 July 2014): John Ging, Operations Director for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says that more must be done to support the Government of Ethiopia in hosting the large influx of those fleeing violence and possible famine in South Sudan.
180,000 South Sudanese refugees have poured into Ethiopia since the start of 2014, at a steady rate of 25,000 per month, with numbers set to reach 300,000-350,000 by the end of the year. 90% of these arrivals are women and children, 70% are under 18 years old. People are arriving in a dire state, with some 30% of new arrivals under the age of five acutely malnourished, and 10% severely acutely malnourished, meaning that without urgent treatment they are likely to die of starvation.
“This is a manmade problem – the result of a political disagreement between two powerful individuals,” said Mr. Ging on his return from Ethiopia. “It is tragic to see this happening in the world’s youngest country, whose independence we were so recently celebrating. It is imperative that parties to the conflict, and those with influence over them, find a peaceful political solution urgently. The people of South Sudan must not be treated as expendable pawns in this power struggle.”
“I applaud the generosity of the people and Government of Ethiopia, who are now hosting almost 600,000 refugees from the region,” he added. “Despite not being a rich country, they have consistently kept their borders open, and are an example of international standard for the treatment of refugees in practice. It is now the international community's turn to step up and shoulder its responsibilities to share the burden with Ethiopia.” So far, of the 193 member states of the United Nations, only 18 are funding the appeal.
The US$211 million South Sudanese refugee appeal for Ethiopia is just 25% funded. Humanitarian partners are doing an excellent job with the resources available, but are unable to keep pace with the rapidly growing needs. “Only 5% of school-age children in Gambella have access to education, which sets us up for huge problems down the road, and in the camp I visited only 20% of people had shelter which meets international humanitarian standards,” noted Mr. Ging. “Camps are overcrowded and, with the onset of the rainy season, the danger of a disease epidemic is very real. Urgent funding is needed to ensure that those fleeing violence in South Sudan can live decently, healthily and with dignity.”
With the prospects of famine on the horizon in South Sudan, and no prospect for an end to the conflict, humanitarians must prepare for the worst in South Sudan and neighbouring countries.
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.