U.N. says it needs $200 million urgently in South Sudan

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 17, 2011 9:49 AM
U.N. says it needs $200 million urgently in South Sudan

By Jeremy Clarke

JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Friday it needed $200 million "right now" to cope with the humanitarian crisis in southern Sudan, less than a month before the vast region declares its independence.

Southerners voted in January to divide Africa's largest country in two, a poll promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the north. Some 2 million people died in the conflict over ideology, ethnicity, religion and oil.

The underdeveloped south has been beset by violence and the mass movement of people since the vote, creating a humanitarian emergency compounded by the onset of an intense rainy season.

Analysts say the south risks being a failed state at birth if it cannot bring rampant insecurity and displacement under control.

"It looks like at this point we are probably going to need about $200 million in order to replenish the stocks we need and get them in place," Lise Grande, the U.N.'s top humanitarian official in the south, said in an interview.

"It really is a race against time at this stage because with the rainy season at its height, in probably less than two weeks large parts of the south will be inaccessible so we need to do it right now. We can't wait," she said.

Grande said at least half a million people were now "on the move" in southern Sudan, including more than 300,000 who have returned ahead of independence, and more than 200,000 who have fled violence.

The south's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) is fighting at least seven rebel militias, and tribal clashes erupt routinely over resources. More than 1,500 people have died in the violence this year, the United Nations says.

Grande said some rebel militia were laying land mines. "It's a terrible tragedy, a number of counties that have been declared mine free have seen fresh mines being laid."

ABYEI

Roughly half of the displaced people in the south have fled the hotly-contested Abyei region since the north rolled tanks and troops into the area on May 21.

An unresolved dispute over who should control the fertile, oil-producing area has complicated the secession.

Nearly 113,000 people have fled violence in Abyei, according to a U.N. report released on Friday, which added that northern and southern troops were moving closer to each other.

"UNMIS (the U.N. mission in Sudan) confirmed the movement of SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) troops from Abyei town south toward the bridge and SPLA troops north from Agok and Twic County," the report said.

The SPLA accused the north on Wednesday of attacking their positions in the south of Abyei, a claim the north denied.

Talks between the two long-standing rivals have continued in neighboring Ethiopia since Sunday. Officials said on Friday negotiators had yet to reach a final deal over Abyei, despite an agreement "in principle" for the north to withdraw its troops.

(Editing by Alex Dziadosz and Philippa Fletcher)