After tribal clashes, UN mounts major relief operation in South Sudan’s Jonglei state

Families displaced by tribal clashes in Jonglei State, South Sudan. Photo by: Isaac Billy / UN

U.N. agencies have started distributing food aid in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, as part of a massive relief operation undertaken in the wake of recent interethnic violence in the region.

In late December to early January, some 6,000 armed youths from the Luo Nuer tribe attacked Jonglei’s Pibor town, where the Murle clan members are largely located. The incident is part of a long history of animosity between the two communities, which was mainly due to cattle rustling.

In a Jan. 6 interview with U.N. Radio, Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, said the South Sudanese government on Thursday declared Jonglei a disaster zone and requested relief groups to ramp up assistance. An estimated 60,000 people in Pibor and other areas are in need of urgent aid, according to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Hilde F. Johnson, the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general and head of the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, applauded the decisions of the South Sudanese government to deploy extra security forces to Jonglei and investigate the recent violence to establish accountability.

She, however, urged the government to move fast on creating its peace team to tackle the problems in Jonglei, with the cooperation of church leaders, civil society and local communities.

“Only in this way can further violence be averted and new humanitarian crises be prevented,” she said.

UNMISS has beefed up its presence in Jonglei’s key areas to improve civilian protection and is continuing its daily air and land patrols. But it has maintained that restoring peace and stability in the region is the South Sudanese government’s main responsibility, U.N. News reports.

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.