By Deng Machol
Juba – The food aid for thousands of people affected by floods have been looted by armed groups in South Sudan’s Unity State, areas that are now out of reach for aid workers, the Norwegian Refugee Council said.
The provision of humanitarian assistance with aid workers has been hitting by rising violence across the country, forced them to flee from the conflict areas.
The NRC said in an emailed statement, its warehouses at Mirmir and Padeah in oil-rich Unity State, have been attacked and looted in at least four incidents over the last two weeks, depriving at least 23,000 people in desperate need of aid.
The agency warned that this attacks come at a time of rising violence in the country in which humanitarians are increasingly harmed and their facilities damaged as they try to help those most at risk.
This month two humanitarians were reportedly killed in separate incidents and branded vehicles shot at.
“The sharp rise in violence has forced our aid workers to flee with their families, forcing us to suspend our work in several areas,” Kennedy Mabonga, NRC’s Country Director in South Sudan said in the statement. “Witness accounts that reached us speak of untold atrocities being committed against civilians, as well as widespread attacks on aid workers. We also fear that more of our warehouses will be attacked depriving even more people in desperate need of aid.”
The NRC warns that the attacks and looting of humanitarian aid are unacceptable and severely limit the ability of aid workers to deliver assistance to the people who need it most.
More than 8 million people in South Sudan will need humanitarian assistance in 2022, including due to a worsening food security situation in which more than half of the country will have acute needs, according to UN.
Unity State is among the mostly flood – affected State in South Sudan.
“At a time when South Sudan is facing unprecedented humanitarian needs, every bag of food stolen from our warehouses is directly snatched from a family that desperately needs it,” Mabonga said.
The violence which began in mid-February is blamed on armed youths in the areas of Koch, Leer and Mayendit counties respectively. Several villages have been plundered and burnt.
“We call on those involved in the violence, whether perpetrating it or encouraging it, to stop immediately,” NRC head said. “We ask the government of South Sudan and local authorities to investigate these incidents with the utmost urgency and seriousness, to prevent any further attacks on aid workers and to ensure that we can reach the most vulnerable people with aid.”
The NRC is supporting livelihoods and food security, education, information counselling and legal assistance, protection, shelter, water provision, building resilience among communities and emergency response to flooding and conflict related displacement in South Sudan.
South Sudan is still bleeding from the communal violence despite the peace deal.
This month, the United Nations Human Rights Commission warned of a “return to violence” if the peace parties fail to expedite full implementation of the fragile peace deal.
Just a year to the end of transitional period, but the peace implementation is facing many challenges including the constitution making process, the judicial reform activities and the implementation of security arrangement.