JUBA - The number of people needing aid in South Sudan is expected to rise as the young country’s conflict extends into a second year, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the country said this week.
“We estimate that by early next year 4.1 million people will require and get help from us. And two-and-a-half million of them will be severely food insecure. It is a huge number,” Toby Lanzer of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) told reporters in Juba.
The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Sudan is also expected to increase from around 1.5 million to nearly two million. Providing them with food, clean water, medicine and other services will cost an estimated $1.8 billion, Lanzer said.
“We need to deliver 337,000 metric tons of relief items to different parts of this country. Just think about that: it is 16,500 truckloads we need to move by road,” he said.
“We cannot do this by air. We cannot do it by having barges going up and down the river,” Lanzer added.
Air drops are vastly more expensive than road deliveries of relief aid, and delivery by river takes longer and is less efficient. The U.N. halted cargo flights into Bentiu, one of the towns hardest hit by the fighting, earlier this year after a helicopter that had been chartered by the U.N. was shot down, killing three of the four Russian crewmembers on board. Relief workers have complained that checkpoints manned by armed forces from both sides of the conflict, along with insecurity and poor infrastructure, have also hampered the relief effort.
Lanzer said both parties to the conflict have agreed to work with aid agencies and allow relief convoys to reach people in need by road.
But he insisted that the key to ending the suffering in South Sudan lies with the people of the country.
“The South Sudanese have to fix this. And the South Sudanese need to start building their country," he said.
"The people of South Sudan need to come together, they need to reconcile, they need to find peace and they need to build their country,” Lanzer said.
At least 10,000 people have been killed and 1.8 million forced from their homes since the fighting began just over a year ago. Half a million have fled to neighboring countries.
Lanzer said he was confident that the international community will rally to the cause of the South Sudanese people and provide the funds needed by aid agencies to save lives. But, in the end, he said, what he and the people of South Sudan want most is an end to the fighting.
"The real prize as we close this year and going to 2015 would be peace," he said.