USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah Calls for Unfettered Humanitarian Access and the Demilitarization of Town Centers in South Sudan

For Immediate Release

Friday, July 19, 2013
Office of Press Relations

We are gravely concerned by the serious escalation of the humanitarian crisis in Pibor County in South Sudan’s Jonglei State. As many as 120,000 civilians have fled their homes as a result of recent spikes in the ongoing battle between state and non-state armed actors and inter-communal clashes. These vulnerable populations are living outside of protected communities and without consistent access to food, safe drinking water, shelter, and health care.

This large-scale displacement comes at the onset of the rainy season—a time when these semi-nomadic communities traditionally return to town centers, extensive flooding in rural areas greatly increases the potential for disease, and civilians are at increased risk of attack in the context of communal and other violence.

The military has a responsibility to protect civilians, but we have heard disturbing reports of Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers harming and intimidating civilians in Jonglei State. The Government of the Republic of South Sudan must ensure that its military forces adhere to humanitarian principles and protect all civilians regardless of their background or ethnicity.

Town centers are highly militarized, preventing civilians from freely and safely returning. To help alleviate this rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis, we are calling for the immediate relocation of SPLA garrisons out of town centers and the removal of commanding officers with records of civilian endangerment from service in Pibor County. The people of Jonglei must be able to return to key population centers to receive urgent life-saving assistance.

The U.S. remains committed to doing all we can to reach vulnerable populations wherever they are in South Sudan. We welcome the Government of the Republic of South Sudan’s efforts to help aid agencies begin to reach as many as 25,000 people in remote, demilitarized bush areas for the first time this week. But all restrictions on humanitarian assistance for those in desperate need must stop. We join our humanitarian partners in calling on all parties to the conflict to ensure unfettered humanitarian access to all parts of Jonglei, and we are prepared to increase our support if and when additional access is granted.