Humanitarian situation in South Sudan 'grim'

Lise Grande, deputy special representative of the U.N. secretary-general and resident and humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, briefs reporters on the situation in Pibor, in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, via videolink on Jan. 3, 2012. Photo by: Evan Schneider / United Nations

Humanitarian aid agencies looking into the situation in Pibor in South Sudan are in for hard work.

The ethnic violence that erupted in Pibor last month in South Sudan has left thousands in dire need of assistance, with the death toll still in a haze.

Lise Grande, U.N. deputy humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, said ”tensions had subsided” in Pibor and that the Lou Nuer tribe that marched in Jonglei is now heading back to its territory. The humanitarian situation in Pibor in the aftermath of the attack, however, is “grim.”

Between 20,000 and 25,000 South Sudanese, mostly women and children, fled their homes to try to escape death as members of the Lou Nuer tribe killed and burned their houses. Returning inhabitants — who had to hide in the bushes for a week — have not had food and access to clean water, and are wounded.

“They fled in haste and have no food or water, some of them doubtless carrying wounds or injuries,” said Parthesarathy Rajendran of Médecins Sans Frontières. He is the organization’s head of mission in South Sudan.

Children are most affected by the violence.

David Gai of Red Cross in South Sudan said about 150 children who got separated from their parents during the whole mess could not find their parents. Gai said most of the children are 1 to 7 years old.

“It is not known if their parents are killed or lost during the attack. What we assume now is that some of the parents are not alive, some of them are killed,” he said, adding unverified reports of mass violence near a river called Kangen.

Grande, who is in the capital, Juba, said the U.N. World Food Program had already flown in its first aid supplies, which were distributed to the “most highly vulnerable — unaccompanied and orphaned children.” She noted that UNICEF, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration are already mounting a “massive emergency support program” to help the survivors.

Red Cross volunteers, for their part, are already trying to reconnect lost children to their parents. Save the Children called for ”calm” for its team to be able to assist affected children.

MSF, meanwhile, has temporarily suspended its medical activities in Pibor.

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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.