South Sudan official guarantees security of aid workers

An aerial view of the areas surrounding Pibor, in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, which have seen ethnic violence recently, displacing tens of thousands and killing an unknown number people. Photo by: Isaac Billy / United Nations

Aid workers going to Jonglei state, South Sudan, need no longer fear.

South Sudan Information Officer Benjamin Barnaba told BBC that he can guarantee the security of aid workers who are in Jonglei, which is now “under the complete control of the government.” His statement comes after the country’s council of ministers declared Jonglei as a disaster zone Wednesday (Dec. 4) and appealed for international relief agencies to rush aid to victims of the latest ethnic violence in Pibor.

The number of people who need aid is still unknown, but the United Nations estimates more than 20,000 fled their homes at the height of the attack.

Barnaba said the declaration will enable aid agencies to speed up response and provide urgently needed food, medicine and shelter.

Sarathy Rajendran, Médecins Sans Frontières’ head of mission in South Sudan, said the needs in Pibor are ”enormous.”

“Some people need every single item. Our first priority will be medical care, but we are planning to provide non-food items as well so people can start rebuilding,” he said, adding that MSF plans to resume operations in the town by week’s end.

The U.N. World Food Program has already started rushing emergency food rations in Pibor and nearby towns. Red Cross volunteers, meanwhile, are assisting some 150 children who have been separated from their parents in the mess.

Violence erupted in Pibor late December when more than 6,000 armed members of the Luo Nuer tribe attacked the Murle community. Houses were set on fire, and an unknown number of people were killed, including women and children. The only standing clinic in Pibor managed by MSF has also been looted and damaged.

The U.N. Mission in South Sudan says it is ”beefing up” its presence across Jonglei in support of the national government’s efforts to restore security in the area. Kouider Zerrouk, a spokesperson for UNMISS, said the mission is monitoring the situation in Jonglei via daily land and air patrols to “make sure that these youth [Lue Nuer] are going towards their locations and not coming back.”

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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.