JUBA, South Sudan, April 24, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps, deeply concerned by the escalation of violence against civilians in South Sudan, warns the nation is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. Signs of malnutrition are present and one-third of the population is at risk of famine by 2015. The onset of heavy rains exposes internally displaced persons in overcrowded areas to the possibility of a waterborne disease outbreak, such as cholera.
"Current humanitarian response structures cannot adequately address the increasingly dire situation," says Mathieu Rouquette, South Sudan country director for Mercy Corps. "People are looking for shelter wherever they can — even sleeping in our temporary learning spaces — further straining already scarce resources."
At least 90,000 South Sudanese civilians are seeking refuge in United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) bases across the country – 25,000 people in Bentiu, the capital of Unity State. The start of the rainy season and poor security conditions are making roads impassable, severely limiting the ability of humanitarian organizations to access and transport lifesaving supplies.
The international community must act quickly in order to protect civilians and prevent further atrocities. Mercy Corps urges:
All parties to the conflict immediately halt violence and implement commitments outlined in the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement;
The UNMISS base in Bentiu be reinforced with adequate peacekeeping capacities in order to ensure protection of civilians and prepare for a robust humanitarian operation;
All armed actors uphold their responsibilities under international humanitarian law and permit immediate and unconditional humanitarian access to civilians in areas they control;
The international diplomatic community engage in rapid-response preventive diplomacy to mitigate the threat of further violence, ensure protection of civilians and accelerate progress towards a legitimate political settlement;
The international donor community to fully fund the South Sudan Crisis Response Plan for 2014, currently only one-third funded, and capitalize on the Oslo donor conference to further galvanize international support and financing for lifesaving emergency response.
"There is an imminent risk of increasingly brutal fighting across the country," says Rouquette. "Now is the moment to fulfill these commitments before the crisis spirals further out of control."
About Mercy Corps Mercy Corps is a leading global humanitarian agency saving and improving lives in the world's toughest places. www.mercycorps.org