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Thousands of Displaced South Sudanese 'Suffering' Without Food, Water

Officials in South Sudan's Yei River State say thousands of people who fled their homes during fighting over the past two weeks are without food or clean water.

The Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in Yei River County says that up to 6,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are living under trees on the outskirts of Yei town. Other local residents fled across the border into the northern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The residents fled fighting between government forces and National Salvation Front rebels led by Thomas Cirillo. Witnesses told VOA's South Sudan in Focus that soldiers killed civilians, raped women, and burned entire villages.

Jane Dawa said displaced villagers like herself have nothing to eat.

"Since we arrived here five days ago after fleeing our village, we have not been given any food, pans, and even blankets. We are suffering, and children are crying amidst us because they are hungry and there is no food," Dawa told VOA.

James Guya, a father of six who also fled with his children to the shelter outside Yei, said women and children are especially in need of help.

"We ran to this place because we witnessed bad things in our village. We are staying here without access to clean water. Children are drinking [and] washing with dirty water. We are calling on the government and NGOs to rescue us from this situation," Guya told South Sudan in Focus.

Lack of funds

Moses Mabe, relief and rehabilitation commission coordinator for Yei River County, said county and state governments lack the funds needed to help. "The government is unable to help and sustain these people," he said.

Several humanitarian organizations operating in the area said they also lack the funds necessary to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced.

"We have little resources to respond to this overwhelming population on a daily basis," said Dara Felix, program manager for United Methodist Committee on Relief in Yei River State. "We are appealing to the partners at Juba level to avail resources so that partners on the ground can intervene effectively to this kind of crisis."

Humanitarian access

Eujin Byun, the UNHCR communications officer in Juba, is urging the warring parties to end the fighting and to guarantee the safety of humanitarian workers trying to intervene.

"We have an access challenge to those IDPs and we have been blocked by the parties to the conflict, and that is why we are calling on all parties to the conflict to ensure free civilian movement and access for humanitarian actors," Byun told South Sudan in Focus.

Chapter two of South Sudan's revitalized peace agreement signed in September urges the parties to respect the free movement of all civilians and give free access to humanitarian workers.