Recent fighting in South Sudan’s northern Unity State has displaced 100,000 people since the beginning of May, according to the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in the troubled country.
“Since the beginning of May, military activities south of Bentiu in Unity State have forced up to 100,000 people from their homes,” Toby Lanzer said in a Friday press statement.
“Civilians living in the areas of and around Guit, Ngop and Nhialdu have been particularly struck by violence and, in an attempt to avoid it, have fled,” he added.
South Sudan is about 16 months into a political crisis that President Salva Kiir has been quick to portray as a coup attempt by his sacked vice-president, Riek Machar.
Tens of thousands of people have died and two million have been displaced internally or have fled to neighboring states. What’s more, the UN estimates that some 2.5 million people are now at risk of starvation.
Lanzer said the latest displacements “come at the peak of the traditional planting season, when people need to be able to move freely and safely to tend to their crops.”
“In accordance with international humanitarian law, it is incumbent on all forces engaged in military activities to protect civilians,” he added. “People should never be harmed, and certainly not targeted or forced to flee their homes.”
The aid coordinator went on to say that UN agencies and their partners “are urgently seeking access to areas of Unity State to assess people’s needs and respond to them in a timely manner.”
Lanzer added: “I call on state and non-state armed actors alike to take all measures to prevent civilians from being hurt or displaced and to facilitate fully the work of aid agencies responding to the needs of populations based on the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality.”