The United States has pledged an additional $133 million in humanitarian assistance for South Sudan, where U.S. officials say a surge in fighting in recent months has caused conditions to deteriorate sharply.
Dina Esposito, USAID director of the Food for Peace program, said the funds would be used to provide food and services to the people of South Sudan who continue to suffer as the country's conflict drags on into its 19th month.
"These resources are meant to mitigate the impact of the crisis on those most affected," Esposito said.
"We will be shipping more than 42,000 tonnes of food to South Sudan. We're also providing resources to boost emergency health services for victims of the conflict, providing resources for safe drinking water and to improve water and sanitation to prevent the spread of disease, providing medical and psycho-social services for survivors of gender-based violence and victims of war trauma," she said.
Most of the food aid will be shipped from the United States, but some will be purchased in East Africa, Esposito said.
"We are providing 8,000 tonnes of food that is sourced in countries near South Sudan, so a very rapid turnaround to allow that food to begin flowing," Esposito said.
The aid resources will be provided to South Sudanese who have been displaced inside the country and to those who have sought refuge in neighboring countries from the violence that erupted in December 2013.
U.S. aid reaches $1.2B
The new pledge of funds for South Sudan brings total U.S. assistance to around $1.2 billion.
The U.S. funds are nearly half of the $275 million that were pledged at a high-level conference on South Sudan in Geneva. The conference was organized by the European Union (EU) and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
"The pledges show that the world has not forgotten the people of South Sudan. We are committed to alleviating their suffering. I witnessed this unfolding disaster firsthand just a few weeks ago. I also saw the admirable work done by humanitarian workers," said Christos Stylianides, EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management.
The EU said in a statement that the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan "has deteriorated relentlessly since violence broke out at the end of 2013."
"More than 2 million people have been internally displaced and are vulnerable to attack, gender-based violence and forced recruitment to armed groups," the statement said.
"An estimated 4.6 million people are facing severe food insecurity and the start of the rainy season is increasing people’s risk of waterborne diseases and malaria," it said.
Esposito described the humanitarian situation in South Sudan as "catastrophic." While she welcomed the pledges of the United States and a dozen other countries at the conference, she said the only way to end the suffering of the people of South Sudan was for the warring sides to return to the negotiating table and reach a workable, lasting peace deal.
Karin Zeitvogel contributed to this report.