Will government increase funding to meet dire needs in South Sudan?

  • National Newswatch

Although South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar have signed three peace agreements, citizens continue to be threatened; and in addition to the ongoing conflict, they face an acute humanitarian crisis and a chronic food and security problem.Since December 15th, 2013, over 10,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million displaced, including over 100,000 people who have sought shelter in ten UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) bases across the country.A report released on May 8th, 2014 by UNMISS documented human rights violations, and “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed during the conflict by both Government and opposition forces.”On May 27th, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) authorized UNMISS to use “all necessary means” to protect civilians. But, despite the new mandate, UNMISS has yet to reach full strength.The United Nations now warns that almost one million children under five years of age will require treatment for acute malnutrition in 2014. In fact, one out of every three people in the country, or the equivalent of 3.9 million people, is estimated to be dangerously food insecure. The UNSC calls the catastrophic food insecurity situation in South Sudan the worst in the world, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls it the “most rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the world”.If the world fails to act now, UNICEF estimates that 50,000 children could die from malnutrition this year. Unfortunately, the world is yet again watching, as a famine is being allowed to happen. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said, “The world should not wait for a famine to be announced while children here are dying each and every day… We all have to do more, and quickly, to keep more children alive.”Canadians should demand to know whether the Government of Canada will heed early warnings of famine and escalating levels of malnutrition, and act now, or will it wait until official famine levels are announced, and respond after the fact?Will the Canadian Government provide a second round of humanitarian funding, particularly, as it did not pledge additional funds at the donor pledging conference in Oslo in May which raised more than $600 million?During the parliamentary take-note debate on South Sudan on April 29th, 2014, in the House of Commons and a subsequent article on May 1st, 2014, I asked the following questions: will the Government consider providing additional funding to humanitarian partners if the needs on the ground continue to increase? Will Canada join in, in enacting sanctions against key individuals fueling the violence? The United States imposed sanctions on an army commander loyal to Machar and the head of President Kiir's presidential guard on May 6th. The EU imposed sanctions against two commanders on July 10th.During the debate and afterward, I also asked whether the Government would consider increasing support to UNMISS beyond its assessed and voluntary contributions to the UN to protect civilians, especially women and children, from violence. How will the Government adjust and renew its longer-term development programming? Unfortunately, I have received no answers.Canadians should now be asking whether the Government will provide funding for countries, such as Ethiopia, which currently hosts 180,000 South Sudanese refuges, although numbers are expected to reach 300,000-350,000 by the end of the year? As of July 23rd, only 18 of 193 Member States were funding the appeal, which was only 25 percent covered.The reality is South Sudan is one of three “mega” crises in the world on a trajectory to becoming a real catastrophe, according to one senior UN humanitarian official; the other two “mega” humanitarian crises today are Syria and the Central African Republic.A spokesperson for Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird recently wrote: “Canada is concerned with the worsening humanitarian situation in South Sudan and we are in contact with our allies and regional partners. ... We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”Canadians should be asking just how much more monitoring and consulting with allies is needed when thousands of children are at risk of dying this year, our major humanitarian organizations are asking for more funding, and like-minded countries are responding right now.The government knows what is happening, and it should act, not deliberate.Kirsty Duncan, M.P., is the Liberal party critic for CIDA, consular affairs, and status of women.