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More than one million have fled S. Sudan conflict, UN says

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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-29

More than a million people have been forced from their homes in South Sudan in more than three months of fighting and immediate action is needed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, the UN warned in a report on Friday.

"In the 100 days since the start of the conflict in South Sudan, over one million people have fled their homes," the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report released late on Friday.

Over 800,000 have been internally displaced inside South Sudan while almost 255,000 have fled as refugees to the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, the UN said.

Violence erupted in South Sudan on December 15 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and fighters loosely allied to former vice president Riek Machar.

The two men have been at odds since July, when Machar was fired from the vice presidency and accused of planning a coup. Machar responded by criticising Kiir’s leadership and declaring his intention to run for president in the 2015 election.

A ceasefire between government and rebels inked in January is in tatters with fighting ongoing.

"Fighting between government and opposition forces has continued, especially in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile state, where towns and rural areas have been ravaged by the violence," the OCHA report added.

The conflict has caused a "serious deterioration in the food security situation", with some 3.7 million people now at high risk, it read.

Peace talks in the Ethiopia capital have made little if any progress, with the two sides squabbling in Addis Ababa's luxury hotels over who can attend the negotiations.

Tens of thousands of civilians are sheltering inside UN peacekeeper bases in fear of revenge attacks, crammed into tiny areas in increasingly squalid conditions.

The UN estimates that five million people are in need of aid, with vast swathes of the countryside increasingly difficult to reach by road due to heavy seasonal rainfall.

Huge warehouses of food aid stored for the rainy season before fighting broke out have been looted.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has therefore begun delivering food and medical supplies by costly air drops. In places without an effective runway the food sacks are simply dropped out of the back of giant cargo airplanes.

Jonathan Veitch, the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in South Sudan, on Friday described "worrying signs of malnutrition and disease outbreaks" and said that every effort had to be made to "avert a humanitarian catastrophe".

Chris Nikoi, head of the WFP in South Sudan, also issued a dire warning, saying that he was "enormously concerned that things could get worse".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

Date created : 2014-03-29

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