The United Nations on Tuesday condemned recent threats to expel some of its staff working in South Sudan’s restive Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA).
Matthew Hollingworth, the UN humanitarian coordinator ad interim in South Sudan, criticized the threat issued on October 4 by angry unemployed youth demanding at least 30 humanitarian personnel to leave the area within 72 hours.
“The youth group accused humanitarian personnel from other parts of the country of occupying positions that they say belong to the local community,” Hollingworth said in a statement issued Tuesday in Juba, capital of South Sudan.
On April 28, angry Monyomiji youth attacked and injured a UN staff member and another staff of a national NGO as they protested against humanitarian agencies for employing people who were not locals in the Eastern Equatoria State.
Several other violent attacks by unemployed youth occurred this year in Maban of Upper Nile state and Unity state, leaving some aid workers killed.
“I am deeply concerned with the latest threat by youth groups against humanitarians serving the South Sudanese community. We are here to deliver critical assistance to the most vulnerable people, including women, children and the elderly,” Hollingworth said.
South Sudan is struggling to recover from years of conflict since an outbreak in December 2013 that has weakened its economy amid high inflation, leaving the majority of its population reeling amid high prices of commodities.
The country is also facing a humanitarian crisis as more than 7 million people are at risk of hunger this year, exacerbated by sub-national conflicts and flooding.
“The consequences of these threats will impact the provision of critical services to people, such as urgent food assistance, health and nutrition services and protection support, among others. Without these frontline workers, all of whom are South Sudanese citizens, we cannot reach people with life-saving aid and people’s humanitarian needs will deepen,” said Hollingworth.
He disclosed that the latest incident will impact response operations to more than 100,000 of the most vulnerable people in GPAA.
Hollingworth noted that since the start of the year, humanitarians have been threatened and attacked by youth in Renk in Upper Nile and Torit in Eastern Equatoria, adding that these attacks led to the suspension of humanitarian activities and the relocation of workers.
“The worrying trend of threats and attacks by youth groups against humanitarians is unacceptable and must stop. I call on all parties, at all levels, to respect, protect and enable humanitarian action,” he said.