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Humanitarian Crisis Looms Over South Sudan

FILE - A woman holds ground water lilies in her palm that she will use to make a soup, in Old Fangak in Jonglei state, South Sudan Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.

JUBA — South Sudan's senior official in the transition government of national unity said the country needs $1.7 billion dollars for addressing an imminent humanitarian crisis.

South Sudan’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Albino Akol Atak said more than 9.4 million South Sudanese are on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

Addressing the first humanitarian coordination meeting in Juba last week, Atak appealed to donors to support the government in tackling the loom crisis.

"The resources needed to respond to all these needs are $1.7 billion and it is what we are now trying to strategize as a ministry of humanitarian affairs and our partners on how to actually to get ready to respond," Atak said.

He told non-profit and government officials at the meeting that insecurity and frequent attacks on humanitarian workers are some of the major factors affecting the work of national and international organizations in South Sudan.

"We have realized that some of the levels of government are not aware of specific environments that are supposed to be accorded to humanitarian workers including the protection and facilitation, so we need to bring them on board so that we have a conference where we will actually talk on all these issues, and it will be an enlightenment to all levels of government that we need actually to give a safe environment to the humanitarian working group," Atak said.

Peter Van der Auweraert, country representative for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in South Sudan, said repeated assaults on aid workers have prevented the smooth delivery of aid communities in the country.

"South Sudanese are victims two times; first they are the indirect victims of the aid - if the food cannot be delivered because it is stolen, it's the South Sudanese that will have nothing to eat. Secondly who are the people who are getting killed? You are writing the reports, you know that these are South Sudanese people that are trying to work to help their own citizens who are in need, they are the ones getting killed," Van der Auweraert said.

He urged the government of South Sudan to arrest and prosecute suspected perpetrators of attacks on aid workers.

"The improvement of security can only be done by very close collaboration with the government who is ultimately and only responsible for security." Van der Auweraety said.

"The second reason why this is so important and the honorable minister refers to it, we are getting close to the rainy season. We know from the last two years a lot of water is still there when you go to Unity state," he added.

Atak admitted that humanitarian workers have experienced deadly attacks while on duty in South Sudan, adding that the government will ensure aid workers and humanitarian supplies are protected across the country.