Statement to the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in South Sudan
Allowing and facilitating rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access for civilians in need is an obligation for all parties and essential for humanitarian relief organizations to effectively save lives. The parties regularly and flagrantly ignore these obligations.
There are areas of the country where humanitarians have been unable to deliver assistance and programmes for extended periods, that compounds already dire food security and nutrition situations. One example is the opposition-held territory of Greater Baggari, near Wau, which is classified in emergency phase of food insecurity – again a step away from famine – and where agencies have been able to deliver aid only sporadically due to access denials and SPLA roadblocks. The situation will get even worse without an improvement in access.
In recent weeks, the Government as well as opposition forces and non-state armed actors have continued to interfere with the delivery of humanitarian assistance to people in need. Government security forces have denied humanitarian access in Liwolo in Kajo-Keji county, non-state armed actors continue to deny access in areas outside Yei and Mundri towns, and opposition forces have denied access in Torit county’s Gunyoro town. Access blockage to a waste disposal site in Bentiu also continues despite assurances from the Governor that humanitarian agencies would be provided unhindered access to the site.
Ongoing fighting also prevents us from delivering aid, including, clashes between SPLA and SPLA-in-Opposition in Yei and surrounding counties. In 2017, more than 500 humanitarian workers across the country have been relocated for extended periods of time due to conflict and insecurity. Humanitarian organizations do not relocate staff lightly – the objective is always to stay and deliver. When we have to relocate, the situation has to be extreme.
In early November, President Kiir released a Republican Order for the Free, Unimpeded and Unhindered Movement of Humanitarian Assistance Convoys. I take note of this order, which enshrines existing international obligations. I urge for it to be translated into concrete actions and instructions at all levels to remove roadblocks and bureaucratic and other types of impediments and for it to be realized in practice on the ground. Because, as I have said, that is not happening now.
Thirdly Mr. President,
Despite these challenges, this year, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners have reached 5 million people, and next year the aim is to reach more. About 4.6 million people have received food assistance and emergency livelihoods support, and nearly 730,000 children and pregnant and breastfeeding women have benefited from emergency nutritional assistance. More than 2.1 million have gained access to clean water; nearly 780,000 were assisted with vital non-food items, including blankets and mosquito nets; more than 350,000 children got a chance to go to school; and nearly 400,000 people have received gender-based violence services. To ease aid delivery, an additional humanitarian corridor was opened from Sudan last month.
The fact remains that until international humanitarian law is complied with, until the fighting ends and until basic services are established, humanitarian needs will remain dire. This year the United Nations and its humanitarian partners halted famine, but that took enormous resources and involved substantial risk to staff. Some of whom, as I have said, lost their life in the endeavour.
UNMISS has and will continue to play an important role in protecting civilians and creating conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance. But their efforts cannot replace or in any way substitute for the responsibilities of the host government.
Fourthly and to conclude, Mr. President, I call upon the Council members:
Firstly, to use their influence to ensure that the parties comply with their obligations under IHL to respect and protect civilians, including humanitarian workers; and,
Secondly, to ensure that the parties allow and facilitate humanitarian relief operations and people’s access to assistance and protection.