Switzerland has pledged to take direct action to help populations facing starvation, especially in South Sudan. The decision follows a call issued by the United Nations Secretary-General on 22 February 2017. Swiss Humanitarian Aid, a department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), is to release CHF 15 million from its fund for humanitarian emergencies for countries hit by famine in the beginning of this year.
“Switzerland is calling for the rapid mobilisation of aid. Some 100,000 people are already facing starvation in South Sudan, and famine looms in other countries in the region,” declared Didier Burkhalter, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The funds released by Switzerland are earmarked for humanitarian efforts in South Sudan, where the situation is most critical, and in Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen, which are also on the brink of famine. The funds will be divided among a range of programmes and humanitarian organisations working on the ground in these regions, where the lack of food security could affect more than 20 million people by summer 2017 if nothing is done.
South Sudan not only suffered a drought in 2016 but it also has also been in the grip of civil war for the last three years, which has driven 3.5 million people from their homes. The country is now facing a food crisis on an unprecedented scale. Switzerland has been working in this region for several years. “The threat of famine has been looming over this country for quite some time now. Swiss Humanitarian Aid has regularly stepped up its efforts in response to growing needs on the ground,” explains André Huber, head of the Africa Division of Swiss Humanitarian Aid. Work on the ground, which is coordinated by the Swiss Humanitarian Aid office in the capital Juba, aims to offer long-term support and assistance to communities affected by conflict and adverse climate conditions.
The CHF 15 million released from the emergency aid fund is on top of the CHF 50 million in humanitarian aid which the SDC already provides in these four countries. The 2017 budget for South Sudan, which totals CHF 20 million, will fund efforts in the water and civilian protection sectors, as well as projects to improve food security and livelihoods. A share will also be allocated to the ICRC and to UN agencies, such as the World Food Programme and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to support their operations on the ground. Swiss Humanitarian Aid itself runs a programme in Aweil, a city in the north of the country, which aims to provide the local population with access to drinking water and sanitation. Switzerland’s contribution will also support NGOs distributing food and providing medical care.
The Secretary-General warned that urgent action is needed to prevent more people dying of hunger, adding that the timely delivery of sustained and adequate assistance could improve the situation within a few months and mitigate further suffering.
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