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Humanitarian situation in South Sudan town "grim": UN official

(Xinhua)

10:32, January 04, 2012

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- A UN official based in South Sudan on Tuesday told reporters here that there are many people in need of humanitarian aid after an incursion of Lou Nuer fighters into Pibor, a town in South Sudan's Jonglei state.

Lise Grande, who is UN deputy special representative of the secretary-general and resident and humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, made the statement as she briefed journalists via video teleconference from Juba, capital of South Sudan. She discussed the movement of troops into Pibor, which was the latest event in a history of conflict between the Lou Nuer and Murle peoples.

"The situation on the ground now in humanitarian terms is grim, " she said. "Because people fled town, they didn't take anything with them, they've been in the bush many of them for up to a week. They haven't had food, they haven't had access to clean water, in a number of cases some of their people are wounded, they haven't had shelter."

Grande said that the Lou Nuer moved its columns of fighters into Pibor on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 causing the "overwhelming bulk" of Murle residents of the town to flee. The Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), reinforced by additional troops from the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), surrounded the town to defend it from any attack by the Lou Nuer. The Lou Nuer left town on Tuesday morning.

Hours after the Lou Nuer departed, Grande, accompanied by representatives from UN and other humanitarian agencies, toured the town and evaluated the situation.

"While we were there the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) flew in the first food and distributed it to the most highly vulnerable," Grande said. "In this case it was unaccompanied children and orphan children. Already today food has gotten to them, and in the course of the next week WFP is going to be providing additional support."

Grande explained that the UN and its humanitarian partners are at work on solutions for the people returning to Pibor as well as the town of Lukangol.

"Already we are mounting a massive emergency support program to help the people as they come back," she said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also weighed in on the situation in South Sudan. According to a readout, he spoke on Monday via phone with Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan and " expressed appreciation for his commitment to protect civilians while exerting efforts to resolve through dialogue ongoing tensions."

"In this regard, the secretary-general noted that the commitment to the rule of law and respect for human rights was fundamental," said the readout, which was issued here Monday. "He said it was also important to address the root causes of the conflict."

The Lou Nuer and Murle have been at odds for years over land and water for cattle grazing, resulting in cattle raids and the abductions of women and children.

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