The United States on Thursday announced another $16 million in emergency assistance for South Sudan, bringing the total in U.S. aid to the world's newest nation to more than $1 billion, the head of USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) said.
"Obviously that is a humongous amount of money and I think it underscores the commitment the U.S. has to the country of South Sudan and particularly to the people of South Sudan who have been affected by this conflict," OFDA Director Jeremy Konyndyk told South Sudan in Focus.
Konyndyk said the United States and other major donor nations are "committed to ensuring we don't see a catastrophic situation in South Sudan."
The biggest challenge South Sudan has on the humanitarian front is the fact that this conflict still remains unresolved.OFDA Director Jeremy Konyndyk
"We made a large effort in 2014 to ensure that South Sudan would not deteriorate into famine conditions. We're making a very large effort this year to make sure famine is avoided," Konyndyk said.
But he said that ongoing insecurity in South Sudan and difficulty in accessing all the internally displaced people in need is making the task faced by humanitarian aid agencies even more difficult.
"The biggest challenge South Sudan has on the humanitarian front is the fact that this conflict still remains unresolved," Konyndyk said.
U.S. biggest donor
According to the financial tracking service of the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the United States was the biggest donor nation to South Sudan before the additional pledge of $16 million announced Thursday. Other major donors are the European Commission, Japan, the United Kingdom and Canada, according to the UN tally.
Konyndyk said frustration is growing among donor countries that "are continuing to put in large large sums of money while the parties to this conflict cannot resolve their differences."
A peace deal reached for the young nation more than a year ago was never respected. As Konyndyk spoke to South Sudan in Focus, fresh fighting was flaring in Upper Nile state, causing aid agencies to pull out of the town of Pagak.
Protect aid workers
Konyndyk said the warring parties in South Sudan "have a major responsibility and obligation to allow humanitarians to work unimpeded. When they take actions that impede the humanitarian effort, they are directly harming their own people and they need to own that responsibility."
More than 10,000 people have been killed, 2 million have been forced from their homes and 2.5 million face emergency levels of food insecurity in South Sudan, OCHA says.
The South Sudanese government welcomed the new injection of U.S. humanitarian aid but said it wanted to be fully informed as to which agencies receive a share of the funding, and what they do with it.
"At the moment, I think we don't have information of the NGOs that are receiving the funding from the American government and how they are utilizing this funding in the country, for which type of project: is it food, health,water, education?" South Sudan's Undersecretary of Humanitarian Affairs, Clement Taban Dominic, said.
The U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, said "transparency is fundamental" to non-governmental organizations and U.N. agencies operating in South Sudan.
"It is important that aid agencies indicate to their corresponding-line ministries why they're here, what they're planning on doing, the work that's going to be carried out, and I think donor governments that provide money to aid agencies are very public about how much money they provide, which NGO or which U.N. agency is receiving the money."
Lanzer also pointed to the financial tracking service, which is run by the United Nations. "There, anyone, anywhere with access to the Internet can see exactly which governments have given how much money to which aid agencies. It's full transparency."
Waakhe Simon Wudu and Karin Zeitvogel contributed to this story.