January’s referendum on South Sudan’s possible seccession could trigger increased aid needs in the region due to an influx of voters currently in the north, United Nations aid chief Valerie Amos has warned.
“The upcoming referendum in January presents unprecedented risks,” Amos told reporters in Juba on Friday (Nov. 5). “In addition to possible new humanitarian needs in the event of referendum-related violence, the fate of southern Sudanese who live in the north and northern Sudanese living in the south is still uncertain.”
There are still some 2 million southerners living in the north, according to estimates.
“It is very important to make sure that there is not a mass movement of people who are not able to actually look after themselves because the pressure that would then put on basic services could lead to harassment and the potential eruption of violence,” Amos said.
The U.N. has a USD25 million contingency plan for South Sudan if violence occurs following the referendum. Amos, however, warned that financing is needed to ensure that the plan is put in place, Agence France-Presse reports.
Amos also urged local authorities in Darfur to strengthen their commitment in helping to deliver aid. Violence in the region, including ongoing fighting in eastern Jebel Marra, is hampering aid work.
The U.N. official also condemned the harassment and violence against humanitarian staff in South Sudan. Humanitarian aid agencies have reported 118 incidents of interference with aid delivery this year.
“Harassment of and violence against humanitarian workers is unacceptable and I am concerned for their security,” Amos said.
Amos ends her week-long visit to Sudan on Wednesday (Nov. 10).