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UN appeals for more funding to prevent famine in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Wednesday appealed for more funding to save a million people on the brink of famine affecting more than 100,000 people.

UNMISS Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General (DSRSG) Eugene Owusu told journalist in the capital Juba fewer than 30 percent of the 1.6 billion U.S. dollars needed for humanitarian response is available to tackle the burgeoning humanitarian situation in the war-torn country.

"The total envelope of resources required to deliver assistance and protection to the 7.5 million people in need in this country is stipulated at 1.6 billion dollars.

"To date we have been able to mobilize under 30 percent of the total requirement that is needed," he told journalists in Juba.

"Funding is urgently needed, particularly to scale up the famine response, to procure, preposition and deliver vital supplies in the dry season and we must take urgent action to avert further catastrophe in the month ahead," Owusu added.

This follows the February declaration of famine by the UN in the Mayendit and Leer Counties of the northern Unity state where 100,000 people are starving, and in March 8 aid workers were captured by rebels and food supplies looted.

"The famine was declared after the humanitarian response plan was launched, so clearly there is fragmentation of resources," he said.

"We should be careful not to have a hyper focus on famine because the famine currently affects 100,000 people.

"We have a million people who are on the brink, so a lot of energies should be in investing in assistance to poor people who are on the brink that is what we are focusing on," Owusu said.

He added that humanitarian response is currently focused on scaling up food assistance, nutrition, health provision, water and sanitation (WASH) and enhancing livelihood opportunities for those in need and large scale displacements in Kodok, Abrok in Fashoda County of Upper Nile state.

"First the guns have to fall silent and cessation of hostilities must hold.

"While humanitarians will continue to do all that is possible to alleviate suffering of lives the fact remains unless, the guns fall silent the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate," Owusu warned.

He also said that the increasing insecurity and access denials by the warring parties amid killings of aid workers is impeding humanitarian operations.

"While humanitarian workers in this country remain ready to scale up efforts, all parties to the conflict must ensure that their operating environment is conducive to the delivery of aid by ensuring free, safe and unhindered access to all areas of this country especially to avert spread of famine," he said.

Owusu also revealed that humanitarian workers are increasingly operating in a difficult, dangerous environment and are paying the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.

"Over the weekend the humanitarian community was compelled to relocate 60 humanitarian workers from parts of Jonglei following serious violence and escalation in insecurity there," he said.

"And only a week ago we lost three contractors working for one of the humanitarian agencies in Wau," he added.

At least 82 aid workers have been killed since December 2013, including recent killings of six aid workers in an ambush attack on the road between Juba and Pibor area.

Owusu further added that aid workers are often harassed across the country and humanitarian compounds and supplies have been looted and vandalized most recently in Yirol, Jonglei, Kajo Keji and Yei in Central Equatoria, Wau Shiluk in Upper Nile and Mayendit in Unity state.

"Humanitarians face repeated challenges to reach people in dire need as a result of insecurity and access denials.

"The biggest part of the challenges that we have to deal with is not at the national level but rather at sub-national level," he disclosed.

He, however, commended recent efforts by authorities to remove blockades on humanitarian access.

"The humanitarian community welcomes commitments made by the President and minister of humanitarian affairs to remove obstacles including to minimizing transaction costs to humanitarian workers," he said.


UN humanitarian expert: Somalia, South Sudan "in peril" of famine

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- The head of operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Tuesday said northeast Africa is in the grip of a "very fast-moving crisis" that is putting both Somalia and South Sudan "in peril" of severe food shortage.

While Somalia was managing for the moment, South Sudan was not, John Ging, director of the Operational Division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said at a press conference here.

He has just returned from an emergency tour of the famine-threatened region and briefed reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

"This is a very fast-moving crisis," Ging said, referring to Somalia.

"Both Somalia and South Sudan are part of a group of countries that are in peril of famine and in the case of South Sudan famine has already been declared."

"There is a catastrophic food insecurity situation in both of these countries," he said, adding 6.2 million people in Somalia are "in need of humanitarian assistance and because of the fast-moving situation with the crisis there we have also got an outbreak of cholera where more than 25,000 cases are being reported."

"We also have threat of measles and 571,000 people displaced since last November, due to the drought and their needing to move from where they are to gain assistance," Ging said.

"The protection issues are massive."

He said Somalia is a very dangerous environment for the population because of conflict and humanitarian workers are have problems gaining access to victims, "particularly in and to the al-Shabab controlled areas."

"It is surely a race again time," Ging said, complimenting government participation, but warning:

"This crisis is going to continue to grow."

In South Sudan, "we have already declared famine, 100,000 people are already suffering from famine in two counties and another 1 million people very close to being declared as affected by famine," he said.

While Ging said that there already has been a large humanitarian operation in the world’s youngest country for a number of years, it is "one of the most dangerous places for humanitarian aid workers," with 24 of them killed this year, nine of them last month.

"We are appealing to all in power for help," Ging said. "Humanitarian colleagues must be respected."

He said 7.5 million people across South Sudan are now in need of humanitarian assistance while 3.6 million people have been displaced.

But Ging said that unlike in Somalia where there has been "a scale up on the funding side," it’s not the same situation in South Sudan, where only 27 percent of the 1.6-billion U.S. dollar appeal has been met, or only 438 million U.S. dollars funded.

"That really leaves our operations very vulnerable," Ging said.

"So, in the one country where we already have famine we don’t have resources."

Somalia launches humanitarian coordination centre to curb droughts

MOGADSHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The Somalia government on Wednesday launched a National Humanitarian Coordination Centre to help manage disasters and curb recurrent drought in the Horn of Africa nation.

The centre which was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Guled called on international community to increase funding and expand humanitarian programs to the drought-stricken communities.

"We call upon all our partners and UN agencies to fully engage with us in the making of systems that could better help us manage disasters and minimize the impact of such recurrent drought in Somalia," Guled said during the launch in Mogadishu.

The launch of the centre comes a time when millions of Somalis are suffering from a severe drought affecting millions across the country.

With almost half of the Somali population in need of assistance, including 330,000 children who are acutely malnourished, the UN chief reiterated an appeal for 825 million U.S. dollars for the support of 5.5 million people for six months.

Guled said the government has done its best to respond to the drought situation and immediately engaged with the existing National Drought Committee that had in place the necessary strategy and mechanism to help alleviate the plight of the distressed population at their localities.

"As you are all aware, Somalia is prone to recurrent drought with documented irregular poor pattern of rainy seasons since 2014 as being the driver of the current drought," Guled said.

According to the National Drought Committee over 6.8 million people across Somalia have been directly affected by the drought with nearly 1.8 million people in dire need of immediate emergency relief, but Guled warned that the number could top up to over 2.5 million people if they don’t respond urgently.

"As a result of the push-pull factors associated with similar crisis, we are witnessing a massive increase in IDP numbers into urban areas already strained with earlier displacement compounded with the lack of adequate resources to deal with such enormous influx," he said.

"This demands more coherent and immediate effort to deal with the aftermath with the urgency it demands," the deputy PM added.

Guled said the government is extremely concerned about the impact of the crisis, particularly in areas that are experiencing water shortages and do not have even the facilities to store water.

"Of specific concern are the reports we received from affected communities who are located close to the dried up river where all the nearby boreholes have dried up as well.

In many parts of the country, caravans of destitute families have moved out of their localities to seek food and water in other areas by foot having lost their entire livestock and in some case vulnerable family members on the long trek," he said.

UN backs Somalia’s efforts to tackle drought and insecurity

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The United Nations and international community have backed Somalia’s government and the federal member states for agreeing to jointly fight insecurity, drought and corruption.

In a joint statement released on Monday night in Mogadishu, the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, the AMISOM, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and other partners lauded the political process the leaders achieved during their consultations in Mogadishu.

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia Michael Keating welcomed in particular the agreement reached on the key points of Somali national security architecture.

"This agreement marks a major milestone for Somalia.

"It is a cornerstone of the federal state building process and is a basis upon which strengthened security can be built," Keating said.

He said the National Security Council chaired by the president, whose members include regional leaders, will now have a critical role in driving progress.

Keating said the international community is committed to supporting the government’s priorities including drought response and recovery, increasing revenues and fighting corruption, and a comprehensive approach to security.

During two-day consultations which ended in Mogadishu on Sunday, led by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and other senior officials, the political leaders agreed to aid Somalia avert a potential famine.

The leaders expressed concern over the deteriorating situation of the drought, which has affected the lives of many people and livestock and caused extensive displacement.

"The leaders collectively appreciated the rescue efforts spearheaded by Somali citizens, both in national and international levels and as well the international community," the leaders said in a joint statement.

The leaders recognize the urgent need for strengthening the efforts to save the lives of the needy, and have agreed upon that a clear plan to avoid repeated drought is needed.

The leaders also agreed upon that the plan for the election process in the year 2020, and that it should be started soon and accelerated.

"The leaders agreed on enhancing the country’s economy, income, job creation, encouraging investment and trade and as well the development of the country’s economic infrastructure," they said.




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