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South Sudanese in dire need, says Red Cross

Esther Muwombi
Refugees fleeing from violence in several parts of the country are in desperate need of help from the Red Cross says.
13.01.2014  |  Juba
ICRC President Peter Maurer speaks to the press in Juba, January 8.
ICRC President Peter Maurer speaks to the press in Juba, January 8.

South Sudan is facing a serious crisis that comes on top of a situation that was already difficult,” said the Red Cross’s President Peter Maurer in a press briefing on January 8. It is unquestionable that the needs are dire, but their full scope is unknown.”

The organisation said it was running short of money to aid those in need and urged the international community to boost their help for the nation. Maurer said the Red Cross had already spent almost a third of its annual South Sudan budget in early January.

It is unquestionable that the needs are dire, but their full scope is unknown.”
Peter Maurer
The organisation has a budget of 64 million Swiss Francs (51.8 million Euro) for South Sudan in 2014. ICRC’s emergency teams are currently working in Juba, Awerial and Malakal to provide medical care to more than 110,000 people displaced from their homes by the fighting.

Since South Sudan gained independence in 2011, non-government organisations have played a key role propping up the nation, which was scarred by decades of civil war. They provide an estimated 80 percent of healthcare and basic services.

Huge shortages have emerged with the outbreak of violence. Many organisations have retreated from hot spots and those still on the ground find it hard to access the displaced persons and distribute basic goods.

Piling pressure onto the fragile nation, the US, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, could cut its support for the country. Reuters reported on Thursday, that US government officials warned that government and rebel leaders need to halt the violence to ensure future financing. US officials fear the conflict could tip into a full-blown civil war, making South Sudan the world’s next failed state.

There is a high risk of epidemics.”
Raphael Gorgeu
On the ground, non-government organisations warned that displaced persons were struggling to survive.

There is a high risk of epidemics, and if the fighting prevents us from gaining rapid and safe access to people in need -- especially to pregnant women and children -- conditions will quickly deteriorate,”  said Raphael Gorgeu, MSF’s Head of Mission in South Sudan.

In the capital Juba, the clashes have calmed but basics like food and money are slowly running out. Residents surrounding the UN compound in Juba where 20,000 IDPs are being sheltered have complained of looting the nearby homes.

The bulk of South Sudan’s food is imported from Uganda but this is under pressure as traders now fear coming to the country. Civilians who remain at home are also suffering food shortages.

Betty Kiden, a Juba resident, said she witnessed people beating and looting an Ugandan pineapple vendor and stealing goats from Mundari pastoralists that graze their animals near the UN camp.