Wednesday, January 14, 2015

South Sudan: Peace needed to avert further humanitarian consequences, Toby Lanzer says

Source: UN Mission in South Sudan

13 January 2015 - Failing to find peace would result in continued suffering for the South Sudanese people, the top humanitarian official in the country said in Juba today.

In an interview with Radio Miraya, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer said finding a sustainable peace agreement was the first step that would enable the people of South Sudan to move forward and deal with the immense challenges that still lie ahead for the country.

“There are immense challenges ahead, even if peace comes tomorrow,” he said. “With every day that passes without peace, the situation cannot get better so the sooner peace comes (and) the sooner communities reconcile their differences, the more chance we have of seeing a South Sudan back up on its feet.”

Mr. Lanzer noted that if peace were restored, hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people, as well as half a million refugees might want to return home. He noted however that the conflict had contributed to a situation where the country’s education, healthcare and infrastructure sectors were “not up and running in a way that we had hoped”.

Commending different initiatives aimed at restoring peace as “steps in the right direction”, Mr. Lanzer who is also acting UNMISS chief said even if the leaders signed a peace agreement, there would still be great need for humanitarian interventions.

“Unfortunately, much of the damage has been done,” he said. “I am not suggesting for a second that peace is a silver bullet. … Peace is the beginning of reconciliation, rebuilding and trying to establish an economy that functions as opposed to the situation today.”

Mr. Lanzer said as humanitarian partners continued to assist the South Sudanese people, there were two key priorities in coming months.

The first vital concern was to implement work by World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization to the fullest between January and March.

He explained that this was a time when roads in South Sudan can be used and there is easier access to provide communities with seeds, tools and fishing kits, to help them get ready for the coming rainy season.

Another priority was a “Back to Learning” campaign for thousands of children who, because of the conflict, had “missed the opportunity to benefit from their right to education”, he said.

“2014 was an awful year for children in this country,” said Mr. Lanzer, adding that the campaign is “much more than humanitarian aid. It is about something that will help South Sudan in the future – averting the loss of this generation of children and making sure that they have every opportunity to get back to school”.