Statement from Mercy Corps Country Director for South Sudan, Janardhan Rao
Following the signing of the peace agreement in September, there is some cause for optimism following five years of war in South Sudan. Though we cannot afford to be cynical about peace – too many lives depend on it – we must be realistic. Implementing the peace agreement and maintaining peace in a country that has known only war will be the bigger challenge for many, many years to come.
In five years of war in South Sudan, almost 400,000 people have lost their lives. Recent findings from the Interim report of the Panel of Experts on South Sudanhave shown that there are continued and alarming levels of sexual and gender-based violence, food insecurity and grave human rights abuses in the country. The recent sexual violence against women and girls was abhorrent and underscores that we have a long way to go to ensure that all parties meaningfully engage in the peace process and ensure rule of law and accountability.
A return to normality and stability will never be possible if these levels of violence and insecurity continue to affect the lives of the many South Sudanese women, men and children who have lost so much in almost five years of war.
The humanitarian needs in the country will continue to be large and the cost of delivering aid in South Sudan ranks amongst the highest in the world. Sustained and unhindered humanitarian access is critical to saving lives but Mercy Corps – like many other international humanitarian organisations working in South Sudan – faces significant bureaucratic and security challenges that often impede or weaken our ability to carry out our programmes.
The Transitional Government in South Sudan must ensure unhindered humanitarian access to reach the7.1 million South Sudanese who urgently need assistance.
This should include supporting the collection of better data on access constraints, the establishment of a single governmental entity responsible for centralising and streamlining all communication with NGOs and increased standardisation, consistency, and transparency in procedures and fee collection.
Ensuring that the humanitarian needs of the South Sudanese people are met will be key to achieving peace in South Sudan and must be a priority for the new government.
Mercy Corps is reaching more than 300,000 South Sudanese with food, education, water and hygiene supplies to meet their urgent needs, as well as supporting displaced people in restarting their livelihoods.by