Nairobi, 1 February 2018
As prepared for delivery
It is impossible to overstate the suffering faced by the people of South Sudan. We are here today on their behalf - those who remain in the country, and those who have fled to nations in this region that have opened their borders in hospitality, including Kenya.
Today, the High Commissioner for Refugees and I visited Kakuma refugee camp where we met dignified but traumatized new arrivals who had traveled long distances to seek safety. We also met youth for whom the opportunity of education provided a glimmer of hope for their many aspirations. And we met members of host communities, including women, who are being included socially and economically in programmes to support refugees. UNHCR and their partners are taking a visionary approach to the indispensable work that they do.
Delivering assistance and protection in South Sudan depends on the exceptional commitment of humanitarians working in extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances. This includes over 160 national and international NGOs and UN agencies, with South Sudanese aid workers in particular often providing the front line of the response.
Last year, in spite of some of the most formidable operational challenges faced globally, we reached 5.4 million people inside the country with live-saving food and livelihoods support; emergency health and nutritional interventions; water and sanitation programming; vital emergency items including blankets and mosquito nets; education programming; and protection services. Localized famine was reversed because of scaled up assistance in targeted areas. When humanitarian assistance is properly funded, it has a powerful impact. International donors contributed US$1.2 billion - 70 percent of the total amount requested. The 2017 Response Plan for South Sudan was among the best funded appeals globally.
However, there is little time to linger on the achievements of last year because the situation – almost inconceivably – is worse today than it was yesterday. We estimate that 7 million people in South Sudan now require life-saving interventions. Around 5.1 million people are now severely food insecure, nearly half the country’s population, and a number we expect to rise in the coming months as the lean season sets in. There are nearly 2 million people who have been internally displaced, many of them multiple times. Just two days ago nearly 15,000 people were forced from their homes by fighting between SPLA and SPLA-io forces in Jonglei. Without sustained assistance, IDPs in this situation across South Sudan are often compelled to flee to neighbouring countries – in this specific case most likely to Ethiopia.
Not unlike other contexts where parties fail to uphold their obligation to protect civilians, women and children are bearing the brunt of the crisis. Half of all South Sudanese children under five are acutely malnourished. Nearly 2 million women and girls are at risk of gender-based violence – a well-known, horrific feature of this conflict.
The United Nations and its partners require $1.7 billion to deliver urgent humanitarian and protection assistance for 6 million people inside South Sudan. In developing the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan, UN and NGO partners, together with the South Sudanese national and local authorities, went through a rigorous, consultative process prioritizing only the most urgent, life-saving interventions for the most vulnerable.
These funds are not needed by the end of the year; they are needed now. Food insecurity levels will almost certainly rise during the first months of 2018, displacement will continue, and supplies within the country need to be prepositioned ahead of the rainy season.
Aid workers also need safe, consistent and unhindered access if they are to provide a timely response. At present, they remain the target of violent attacks and bureaucratic impediments. Last year, 28 were killed in the line of duty, nearly all of them national staff. This week, humanitarian cargo drivers delivering life-saving supplies from Juba to Bentiu reported 105 check points demanding a total of $1,400 per truck. I refer to President Salva Kiir’s order in November for the free movement of humanitarian supplies and personnel, and look forward to seeing it effectively implemented throughout the entire country as a matter of urgency.
While I have focused on the response inside South Sudan, the High Commissioner and I are here to jointly advocate for these two plans because both efforts ultimately address one crisis. This is in essence a regional protection crisis. Indeed, many of those targeted under the Humanitarian Response Plan may themselves become refugees during the course of the year, making the regional refugee response just as critical as humanitarian interventions inside the country. Last year, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated $15 million to the South Sudan refugee response. I intend to maintain this attention on the critical work being done to support South Sudanese refugees throughout the course of this year.
I have just returned from a joint mission to Ethiopia and Somalia with UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner where commitment by the governments to end enduring humanitarian emergencies has opened many opportunities for humanitarian and development partners to support them collectively. We are not there yet in South Sudan, where conflict prevents the establishment of even the most basic services. When we are able, however, we must always strive towards medium and longer term goals. UNHCR’s efforts through the practical application of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework is one area where this is being done – strengthening alliances with international financial institutions, global and regional academic institutions, and development agencies to reduce protracted risks and refugee dependence on humanitarian aid.
As these efforts towards durable refugee solutions are implemented, immediate needs must also be met – both inside South Sudan and in the countries where they have been forced to flee to. Donor support for both plans is urgently needed this year.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.