Friday, March 13, 2009

More Than 100,000 Affected by Rebels in South Sudan, Says UN

More than 100,000 affected by rebels in south Sudan: UN

13 Mar 2009, 1707 hrs IST, AFP

JUBA, Sudan--More than 100,000 people in south Sudan need humanitarian support following attacks against Ugandan rebels, the to UN humanitarian official there warned on Friday.

Fighters from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) launched a series of bloody attacks after Uganda, southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) began a joint operation against them in December.

"A hundred thousand people in Western and Central Equatoria are affected," said Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for south Sudan. "Out of all of those affected half of them are children."

These include more than 36,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who fled their homes in south Sudan, in addition to more than 16,000 refugees from the DRC who have crossed into Sudan seeking shelter.

"An additional 50,000 people in host communities -- where the IDPs and refugees are running too -- are reported to be vulnerable and need humanitarian assistance," Grande told reporters.

"Conditions are deteriorating, and they are deteriorating quickly," Grande said, warning that communicable disease such as dysentery had already broken out.

While south Sudanese authorities, the UN and other aid agencies have been working hard to support those affected, Grande warned that the scale of the problem was growing beyond their current capacity.

"The numbers are getting too big, and conditions now are sliding," she said, adding that they were requesting emergency funding to fill the gaps.

More support, including extra seeds and farming tools, are needed.

The Ugandan-led operation smashed the rebels' jungle hideouts in northeastern DRC, but fleeing fighters have launched attacks reportedly in retaliation on civilians across the region.

"Many people have experienced traumatic events, such as killing of members of their families and communities, burning of their villages, physical violence, abuse and neglect," Grande added.

The LRA is accused of having raped and mutilated civilians, forcibly enlisted child soldiers and massacred thousands during what has been one of Africa's longest-running conflicts.

With fighting ongoing, there remain concerns for security.

"The situation may not improve in the future," said Grande. "The LRA remains active and continues to launch attacks against civilian populations."

Elsewhere in south Sudan, Grande said a recent outbreak of "violent tribal clashes" in the Pibor region of Jonglei state was causing concern.

"We have preliminary reports that may indicate we have as many as 100 people that have been killed," she said.

In addition, reports suggested that up to 150 people had been wounded and some 2,000 cattle stolen in raids.

A UN assessment team arrived in Pibor on Friday.

Grande also said life was "returning to normal" in the town of Malakal, after more than 50 died in fighting between southern and northern troops last month.

But "there are still worries about what might happen in the future," she said.

Semi-autonomous south Sudan is not directly affected by the recent expulsion of 13 international aid agencies in the western region of Darfur by the government in Khartoum.

However, Grande said the UN was preparing "contingency plans" for any potential movements of Darfuris into south Sudan following the slashing of humanitarian support there.

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