Donors pledge $600 million to bolster UN-led aid response to South Sudan crisis

20 May 2014

imagePhoto: OCHA

International donors today pledged more than $600 million dollars in aid to South Sudan at a conference hosted by Norway and the United Nations aimed at preventing famine and upholding human rights in the world’s newest country which has been ravaged by months of fighting.

“These generous pledges will, once paid, translate into life-saving relief to the most vulnerable people in South Sudan and to those who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries,” said Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who co-chaired the conference with Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende.

“The UN and our humanitarian partners must now do our part and deliver,” she urged.

Before the conference, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said about $1.26 billion was still needed to meet the total needs of $1.8 billion for this year. The additional funding would allow aid groups to provide food, water and shelter.

South Sudan has been enmeshed in a crisis which began in mid-December 2013 as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy president, Riek Machar, who had been forced from office earlier that year.

The in-fighting has since erupted into a deadly conflict forcing tens of thousands of people to seek refuge at UN bases around the country. The political rivals signed an ‘Agreement to Resolve the Crisis’ last month with the aim of ending the violence.

“We expect the parties to the conflict to honour their agreement signed 9 May. The fighting must stop so that people can plant and tend to their livestock,” said Foreign Minister Brende. “Humanitarian access must be guaranteed so aid organizations can reach more people in need.”

Briefing the Security Council earlier this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that by the end of this year, half of South Sudan’s 12 million people will be either in flight, facing starvation, or dead.

As a result, a third of the country’s population is severely food insecure. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that there is a high likelihood that the situation could worsen during the second half of 2014. Some 50,000 children are at serious risk of dying of malnutrition, especially those who have been displaced, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) added.

Today’s conference “is the last best chance for donors to help aid agencies,” said the Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Toby Lanzer.

The funding is urgently needed before the situation unravels further, OCHA has warned. In conflict-affected states such as Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity, the planting season has been disrupted, and people now only have one month left to plant their crops.

In addition, in many areas, people are still recovering from the effects of the 2013 floods making them particularly susceptible to food insecurity and malnutrition.

“The first rains have arrived and the window for bringing in aid by road is almost shut. Expensive airlifts might be the only answer until the dry season returns,” noted Vincent Lelei, the head of the OCHA office in South Sudan. The rains will soon render 60 per cent of the country inaccessible by road.

If nothing is done, the number of displaced could rise to 1.5 million, according to the UN agency, with one out of every two South Sudanese displaced, sick or starving by December 2014.