Aid worker security 'fluid' after failed South Sudan coup

President Salva Kiir of South Sudan. Monday's alleged coup attempt to oust President Salva Kiir by opposing factions has affected humanitarian operations throughout South Sudan and forced the United Nations to limit personnel movement around the capital. Photo by: Al Jazeera English / CC BY-SA

For the first time since Monday’s alleged botched coup, the situation in South Sudan’s capital seems to have calmed down. Children are going to school and people are reporting to work — but aid groups remain cautious.

Armed clashes in Juba have claimed over 500 lives in the aftermath of an alleged attempt to oust President Salva Kiir by factions supporting his former vice president. The violence hampered some humanitarian operations and led the United Nations to limit personnel movement around the capital. U.N. agencies however did not consider evacuation or relocation, OCHA deputy head of mission Cathy Howard told Devex.

The U.N.’s focus has always been in the outlying areas of South Sudan, like in Jonglei state where there are reports of renewed tribal violence that often add to access problems by humanitarians to areas where aid is needed. So operations have not exactly been suspended, but Howard explained that with the displacement caused by the fighting in the capital, an assessment will be carried out in Juba as soon as it’s safe to do so.

How soon this will be however remains to be seen.

Cynthia Lee, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the South Sudanese capital, said the situation is still fluid, and it’s difficult to follow a business-as-usual approach.

“The fighting in Juba has left hundreds in urgent need of medical care, especially those wounded by the fighting. Thousands of civilians, including women and children, have fled their homes in search of safety, taking very little with them. Some may be going home, but some displaced by the fighting may also be too scared,” she told Devex.

The violence has also limited the ICRC’s normal operations, but Lee said they were still able to deliver some “badly needed medical assistance” with the help of the South Sudan Red Cross. The insecurity however had led the organization to be “extremely vigilant” over their staff members’ security.

“We are currently reviewing our setup in the country and will adapt ourselves to the situation as it unfolds,” she said.

The recent failed coup underscores the country’s political fragility. And while it may not be surprising for a very young nation such as South Sudan, it raises serious concerns over the country’s development prospects.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.