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JUBA: Aid Agencies Say Return of Machar will Improve Humanitarian Situation

Two international humanitarian agencies on Wednesday welcomed the return of South Sudan’s Riek Machar, who has been sworn in as vice-president, saying it will help improve humanitarian situation in the country.

Sudan’s Riek Machar after arriving in capital Juba yesterday.

In separate statements, Oxfam International and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said the arrival of former rebel chief in Juba on Tuesday raises hopes of permanent ceasefire in the youngest nation.

Oxfam’s Country Director in South Sudan, Zlatko Gegic said Machar’s return to Juba is a positive step towards the formation of South Sudan’s transitional government of National Unity.

Gegic said over four months late, the transitional government is desperately needed to deliver lasting peace, reconciliation and justice for the people of South Sudan.

"The success of the peace deal will be reflected in improvements in the humanitarian situation and the confidence of displaced people to return home," he said.

Gegic said the country’s leaders must now demonstrate their commitment to the deal and work urgently to end needless suffering for millions of South Sudanese facing a dire humanitarian crisis.

At least 2.8 million people across the country are struggling to get enough food and 2.3 million have been forced from their homes.

"We urge all parties to the conflict to live up to their commitments and ensure the ceasefire is respected. The people of South Sudan deserve unimpeded access to humanitarian services, guarantees of safety and protection and a voice in shaping the country’s future," said Gegic.

Both Machar and President Salva Kiir have appealed to the international community and South Sudanese to help them implement peace deal that calls for the immediate formation of the unity government that is behind schedule.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) called for urgent attention to the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.

"While the arrival of Machar and other opposition leaders is a positive step in the path to peace, the humanitarian crisis is far from over," warned NRC’s Country Director in South Sudan, Victor Moses.

"Though the peace process resolves some national level political disputes, it does not resolve escalating humanitarian and protection needs on the ground."

He said humanitarian needs in South Sudan are staggering with some 6 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Serious food insecurity continues in South Sudan, with some 2.8 million people estimated to be severely food insecure.

A report in December projected an estimated 40,000 people in parts of Unity State (Ruweng, Northern and Southern Liech) to be experiencing catastrophe levels of food insecurity.

These communities, Moses said, are in need of urgent food and other humanitarian assistance to avoid any further deterioration and escalation of the food insecurity.

"The deteriorating humanitarian situation is affecting the lives of millions of people. But the political leadership now has an opportunity to improve the plight of its people," Moses said.

He called on the country’s leaders to protect civilians and create an environment where communities feel safe so they can return home to rebuild their lives, and aid workers can reach them safely.

"We call on the international community to do all it can to support the aid operation and prevent families from sliding deeper into crisis," he said.

The relief agency said political tensions and cattle raiding related to national-level conflict dynamics plague humanitarian access in the central part of Unity State (Ruweng, Northern and Southern Liech).

By Robert Muriisa.

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