South Sudan

Top UN humanitarian official in South Sudan urges safety for aid workers

News and Press Release
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A crowd awaits food distribution at Pibor town, South Sudan. © IRIN/Hannah McNeish

28 February 2013 – The top United Nations humanitarian official in South Sudan today expressed deep concern about the fighting in the eastern state of Jonglei and urged a stop to attacks on aid workers and supplies.

“I have been informed of attacks on humanitarian actors and the seizure of humanitarian assets and commodities. This must stop,” the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Toby Lanzer, said in a statement.

He added that civilians in need of aid and protection from violence must be allowed to move freely, and that the provision of “impartial, neutral and independent humanitarian action” be respected by all armed actors.

To date, the UN and its humanitarian partners in South Sudan responded to the needs of over 23,000 people in Akobo County affected by the 8 February fighting in Walgak. According to media reports, the people of Walgok were migrating north to the wetlands with cattle when they came under attack by an armed force.

An integrated UN team – which includes human rights officers from the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) – is in Walgak to support local authorities in gathering information and interviewing survivors in a field hospital to ascertain exactly what happened.

Humanitarian workers are also aiding 19,000 civilians in Pibor County whose lives have been at risk due to inter-communal violence and hostilities between the army and non-State armed actors in the past months, Mr. Lanzer said.

South Sudan has also been plagued by inter-communal violence. In addition to Jonglei state, there have been an increasing number of cattle raids in recent weeks in Unity, Lakes and Warrap states.

In today’s statement, Mr. Lanzer urged armed actors to differentiate between civilians and people directly involved in hostilities, regardless of their ethnicity or location. “I call on all armed actors to respect their obligations under international law to ensure that civilians are spared from the consequences of military engagement.”

He also urged the Government of South Sudan to reinforce its ongoing efforts to strengthen law and order and hold to account those who are responsible for committing crimes and putting civilian populations at risk.