UNITED NATIONS : In a Christmas Day appeal addressed to the people of South Sudan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed his call on its leaders to settle their differences peacefully and pledged to help end the violence that has wracked the world’s youngest nation over the past 10 days.
“I want to assure you that the United Nations stands with the people of South Sudan at this difficult time,” Ban said in his radio/video message.
Escalating violence has led to hundreds of deaths and the displacement of at least 90,000 people in the country, which gained its independence two years ago after seceding from Sudan. The conflict has been increasingly marked by reports of ethnically targeted violence.
“We know many of you are suffering from horrific attacks. Families are fleeing their homes.
Many of you have lost loved ones and are grieving. Innocent civilians are being targeted because of their ethnicity. This is a grave violation of human rights,” said Mr. Ban.
“South Sudan is under threat - but South Sudan is not alone,” he stressed.
Ban called on the country’s leaders to settle their differences peacefully and underscored their responsibility to protect civilians. “I have warned all responsible for crimes that they will be held accountable.”
On Tuesday, the Security Council, acting on Ban’s recommendations, increased the troop strength of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which is currently sheltering some 58,000 civilians who have fled to its peacekeeping compounds for protection.
In a unanimously adopted resolution, the Council authorized a temporary increase of 5,500 more troops and 440 more police, as well as critical aviation assets to boost the capacity of the Mission which currently has some 7,000 personnel.
In this connection, the secretary-general has contacted by telephone Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and several other leaders to request additional troops to help UN forces in South Sudan quell the ongoing violence.
Ban has noted that even with ongoing support, the strengthening of UNMISS’ protection capabilities will not happen overnight. “Even with additional capabilities, we will not be able to protect every civilian in need in South Sudan,” he stated after the Council’s action. “The parties are responsible to end the conflict.”
Aid agencies have said they need $166 million from now until March 2014 to address the immediate needs of people resulting from the current crisis. This includes emergency programmes for some 200,000 refugees from Sudan in Unity and Upper Nile states of South Sudan.
The resources will be used to provide clean water and sanitation, healthcare, shelter, and deliver food and livelihood assistance, according to a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
It will also ensure that the rights of vulnerable people, including survivors of violence, are better protected. The money will be used to manage sites for displaced people and transport aid workers and supplies to strategic locations where communities are most at risk.
“This is an extremely difficult time for the people of this new nation, and it is crucial that aid agencies have the resources they need to save lives in the coming months,” said Toby Lanzer, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan.
“There are at least 90,000 people who have been displaced in the past 10 days. This includes 58,000 people who are sheltering in UN peacekeeping bases, a number which represents only a share of all the people we need to reach in the coming weeks.”