South Sudan’s Humanitarian Coordinator Marks World Humanitarian Day

(Juba, 19 August 2011): The Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Ms. Lise Grande, has marked this year’s World Humanitarian Day by highlighting the achievements of South Sudan’s aid workers. Speaking from Renk in Upper Nile State during a high-level delegation to assess the impact of a recent surge of returnees, she also highlighted the pressing humanitarian priorities facing the world’s newest nation, including the continuing flow of returnees from Sudan, high levels of displacement and mounting concerns over a potential deterioration in food security.

In honour of the annual event, Ms. Grande praised the thousands of women and men who strive each day to provide life-saving assistance to vulnerable South Sudanese. “The majority of aid workers in South Sudan are from the South itself. They bring leadership, experience and skills to the humanitarian operation – they are its backbone and guiding light,” Ms. Lise Grande said.

Humanitarian aid workers often serve in remote locations, with little access to basic services, and at personal risk. In recent months, attacks against humanitarian personnel and assets have increased, compromising the ability of aid workers to assist people in need. “Concrete measures are needed to ensure that ordinary civilians are protected from the effects of insecurity. It’s equally important that humanitarian staff are respected as neutral actors. We have asked the Government of South Sudan to demonstrate zero tolerance for the harassment of aid workers so that life-saving services can continue,” Ms. Grande stated.

Despite steps forward, South Sudan has continued to face critical humanitarian challenges as it looks to the future. South Sudan achieved its historic independence from Sudan on 9 July. While independence celebrations passed peacefully, the basic safety and security of civilians remains a serious concern. According to reports from local authorities and assessment teams, more than 275,000 persons have been newly displaced by conflict this year, including over 110,000 from Abyei. In addition, more than 330,000 people have returned from Sudan to South Sudan and thousands of other civilians are vulnerable to inter-communal violence and persistent rebel militia activity.

Food security has also become an increasingly urgent concern over the first half of 2011, with a combination of increased insecurity, displacement, reduced trade with Sudan, and erratic rainfall undermining people’s ability feed themselves. Emergency food aid has been provided in response to the increased humanitarian needs, but partners are now experiencing shortfalls in food stocks as a result.

“It is critical that the Government of South Sudan, with the support of the international community, acts quickly to prevent a downturn in food security” said Ms Lise Grande. “Nothing is more important in the first year of statehood than ensuring that people have enough food to survive.”

For further information, contact Cecilia Attefors, Public Information Officer, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in South Sudan (attefors@un.org / +249 912 179 084) or Carolina Kern, Communications Specialist, Office of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan (kernc@un.org / +249 904 215 718).

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