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March 25, 2014

US Announces $83 Million More for South Sudan Refugees, IDPs

by Charlton Doki

The United States is providing nearly $83 million in additional humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of people suffering more than three months of violence in South Sudan, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, Nancy Lindborg, said the new injection of funding will help provide urgently needed food, medical supplies, hygiene kits and shelter to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people who have sought refuge at U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) bases and compounds, and in the bush.

"Some 70,000 people... are huddled in the UNMISS compounds, seeking safety -- many of whom are in very, very overcrowded conditions," Lindborg said.

"It will be critical to address the needs of these people, especially since many of these compounds are literally in swamp areas and as the rains come these compounds will be unhealthy and unable to accommodate these people,” she said. Lindborg said the funds will also go toward alleviating what she called "a looming crisis of food insecurity."

More than one million people "are currently in desperate need of food" and malnutrition is rising sharply, especially among children under the age of five, as the conflict goes into a fourth month, Lindborg said.

Massive displacement and flooding that hit during last year's planting season are contributing to the crisis, she said.

Some aid headed for South Sudan neighbors

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Catherine Wiesner said some U.S. funds will be used to help the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, support South Sudanese who continue to flee their conflict-wracked homeland for neighboring countries.

 “The daily numbers are increasing," Wiesner said. Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan "have seen more arrivals this month than last month -- more than 1,000 per day," Wiesner said.

"This is really a tragedy for a country that saw so many hundreds of thousands of people return in recent years, with hopes to help rebuild their new nation” after decades of war with Khartoum, Wiesner said.

Partnering with host governments and other organizations in the region, UNHCR is providing protection and assistance to more than 250,000 refugees who have fled South Sudan since the newly independent country plunged into violence in mid-December, the State Department said in a statement.

The new funding brings U.S. aid for victims of the conflict in South Sudan to nearly $411 million dollars over the past 18 months.

The two U.S. officials spoke to reporters after touring IDP camps in Jonglei state and an UNMISS compound in Juba where tens of thousands of South Sudanese have sought shelter