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UN official urges South Sudan to protect aid workers

May 16, 2018 (JUBA) – The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock has urged all the warring parties involved in South Sudan’s conflict to cease hostilities and protect civilians and aid workers.

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Oxfam aid workers in Mingkaman, South Sudan, oversee the distribution of food to displaced people in August 2014. (Photo Pablo Tosco/Oxfam)

"The conflict in South Sudan is now in its fifth year. Ordinary people are suffering on an unimaginable scale. The peace process has so far produced nothing. The cessation of hostilities is a fiction. The economy has collapsed," he said after a two-day visit to the country.

The senior UN official, as part of this tour of the war-torn nation, met South Sudan government officials, members of armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO), various humanitarian entities and UN partners.

"Belligerents use scorched-earth tactics, murder and rape as weapons of war. All these are gross violations of international law. Seven million people need humanitarian assistance in 2018. And things are simply getting worse," he said.

According to the world body, about 4.3 million people have been displaced, including more than 1.76 million who are internally displaced and about 2.5 million in neighboring countries.

Lowcock, however, said displaced people in South Sudan are more vulnerable to threats to their safety, health as well as their livelihoods.

"Despite a multitude of challenges, humanitarians are saving lives and protecting people," he stressed.

The senior UN official said the humanitarian workers he met during this visit, need rapid, safe, unhindered access to all people in need.

"Aid agencies are subject to harassment, extortion, looting, kidnappings, killings, predatory fees and levies and other blockages across the country — perpetrated by all parties to the conflict," he said.

According to the UN, the number of aid workers killed in South Sudan since conflict broke out in December 2013 reached 101 this month.

(ST)