LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As many as one million people have been displaced in the recent fighting in South Sudan and international organisations urgently require funding to meet the needs of those who have fled their homes, said a senior U.N. official.
“The crucial thing here is funding. These are people who fled with nothing and are living in a very difficult situation,” United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees T. Alexander Aleinikoff told Thomson Reuters Foundation in London.
“We can do our work if we’re adequately supplied with resources, but the resource needs are huge.”
In January, less than three weeks after launching an initial $360 million appeal, the U.N. asked for additional funding of $99 million for humanitarian crises in South Sudan and Central African Republic. Of the new funding, $59 million is intended for South Sudan.
Fighting between South Sudan’s army and rebels led by former Vice President Riek Machar, which erupted in mid-December brought the world’s newest nation to the brink of civil war and triggered mass displacement. The two sides signed a ceasefire on Jan. 23 but sporadic clashes have continued.
“Even though the shootings have largely stopped you have people who don’t feel secure to go back to their homes,” said Aleinikoff.
“We work on protection issues, in particular structures for monitoring issues like sexual and gender-based violence. There are special protection needs of children. We are worried about child soldier recruitment,” he said.
Aleinikoff said some 70,000 to 80,000 displaced people had sought refuge at U.N. bases - the U.N. mission in the capital Juba, the U.N. house and at some other sites. The U.N. is opening a new facility hosting up to 5,000 people to ease congestion.
“This is near the U.N. house in Juba and there’s another piece of land that can be developed across the road that will also be able to take up to 10,000 or 20,000 thousand people. We will put up services until people think it is safe to go home,” said Aleinikoff.
Thousands of people have been killed in the worst violence since South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011.
At least 3.2 million people in the country – more than a quarter of the population – face food shortages and aid agencies say insecurity is hampering their operations.
Due to growing insecurity in 240 staff of the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) were forced to flee the northern city of Leer last week.
Sporadic skirmishes since the ceasefire was signed underline the challenges regional mediators face when peace talks resume in Addis Ababa in neighbouring Ethiopia next week.
“Ultimately the solution here is for negotiations to go forward. There was the cessation of the hostilities signed in Addis Ababa – that process needs to go forward, the confidence-building steps need to be taken so people feel safe to return to their homes,” said Aleinikoff.
“There needs to be political process (in place) that will ultimately solve the problems of internal displacement,” he added.