Press Conference on Humanitarian Situation in South Sudan

4 December 2013

Press Conference on Humanitarian Situation in South Sudan

4 December 2013
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Humanitarian Situation in South Sudan


The ongoing humanitarian crisis in South Sudan needed continued global attention and support, a senior United Nations humanitarian official said today at a Headquarters news conference following her visit to the world’s youngest country.

“The purpose of my mission was to keep the global spotlight on the complex humanitarian crisis in South Sudan and find ways to strengthen partnership and collaboration with regional organizations and the Government,” said Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Having travelled to Bor and other places in Jonglei State, she recalled meeting families affected by violence and by seasonal floods, adding that the country was struggling to provide security and meet the basic needs of its people.  An estimated 4.5 million people needed humanitarian assistance, including nearly 1 million facing severe food insecurity, she said.  Recent floods had affected nearly 345,000 people, with many losing their homes and farmlands.

Although the humanitarian situation in the country had improved slightly over the past year, United Nations agencies and aid partners had continued to work with the Government to meet the needs of communities affected by crises.  “It was very clear that much more need to be done,” she stressed.  Her focus was to engage the Government and other partners to find sustainable solutions to South Sudan’s protracted crises.  That would include investing in better disaster management, strengthening the infrastructure and ensuring a lasting peace and development.

Her office launched a multi-year plan starting in 2014, centring on immediate emergency needs, as well as such longer-term measures as community resilience and national capacity building, an approach which she described as different from before.  The plan aimed at helping the country to cope better with crises and help disaster-hit communities to recover and build back stronger.

Her trip included a visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she participated in a regional coordination meeting with the African Union, and to Nairobi, Kenya, where she co-chaired the Great Lakes consultation, which highlighted humanitarian impacts of the ongoing conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Replying to a question on the use of child soldiers in South Sudan, Ms. Kang said the issue had not been raised in her visit and that there was no evidence that it was an ongoing practice with Government forces.  But, some active rebel groups required further scrutiny.  For statistics, she referred to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.

A greater challenge for child protection was orphans in armed conflict and inter-communal clashes.  She saw countless street children in Bor.  The authorities had little capacity to take care of street children not enrolled in schools.  That problem was extensively discussed during her visit.

On a question on returns, she said that while 1.9 million people had returned from Sudan to South Sudan, there was cause for concern as 20,000 South Sudanese remained in open areas in Khartoum.  There was an ongoing discussion between the two Governments on returns.  Furthermore, she had seen returnees arriving to a transit centre in Juba on barges provided by the International Organization for Migration.

Asked if her office was talking to rebel groups in South Sudan, she said that it was in discussion with David Yau Yau’s group and other rebel movements because humanitarian assistance needed to reach people under their control.

On access, she said South Kordofan and Blue Nile remained off-limits and a vaccination campaign had not started there.  Many places in South Sudan were hard to reach due to insecurity, absence of infrastructure and lack of air-lifting capacity.  When the rainy season came, about 60 per cent of the roads disappeared.

As for long-term violence in Jonglei State, she said that the dry season brought a possibility of renewed clashes.  Stressing the importance of active political leadership to bring about reconciliation, she said there were some hopeful initiatives, such as a peace offer from the Government to David Yau Yau’s group.  She also highlighted the Government’s lack of capacity to investigate incidents of violence and measures to support victims.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.