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South Sudan: 300,000 in need of emergency relief- says UN as it pulls out workers


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(By Estera Popowska)

The United Nations said Monday that more than 300,000 South Sudanese civilians are without "life-saving aid" in the northern battleground state of Unity, AFP reported.

 Meanwhile, UN and aid agencies have reportedly pulled out of South Sudan due to heavy fighting where violence is some of the worst in the country's 17-month-old civil war.

UN aid chief in South Sudan Toby Lanzer reportedly said in a statement “ongoing hostilities in Unity state have now obliged all non-governmental organizations and UN agencies to evacuate staff from Leer and other locations.”

“As a consequence, over 300,000 civilians who are in need of emergency relief, including food aid and medical services, do not currently have access to such life-saving assistance.”

On Friday the UN said that up to 100,000 people had been uprooted in the first week of May alone, following a marked spike in hostilities. AFP reported Doctors Without Borders (MSF) as saying on  Saturday it was forced to pull its foreign staff out of Leer and halt all medical services amid fears the rebel-held town was about to come under "imminent attack" from government forces.

Meanwhile, The International Committee of the Red Cross has also warned that escalating fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar was forcing thousands of civilians to flee for their lives yet again.

South Sudan's civil war began in December 2013 and has been characterised by ethnic massacres, rape and attacks on civilians and medical facilities. Meanwhile, peace talks in neighbouring Ethiopia have reportedly so far failed to reach any lasting agreement, or even an effective ceasefire.

The violence, which has escalated into an ethnic conflict involving multiple armed groups, has killed tens of thousands of people in the world's youngest nation, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011. It has also left over half of the country's 12 million people in need of aid, with 2.5 million people facing severe food insecurity, according to the UN.

"Renewed violence in southern Unity comes at a time when stocks of food are depleted, and precisely at the height of the traditional planting season when civilians could be planting their crops in order to reap a harvest later this year," Lanzer added (AFP)

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