Canada cannot stand by while South Sudan starves

  • National Newswatch

August 19th marks World Humanitarian Day, a time to recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others, as well as to highlight grave humanitarian crises in the world, and the urgent need for Canada to do more.Currently, there are four countries in the world that share a Level 3 emergency status, the highest-level emergency:  Central African Republic (CAR), Iraq, South Sudan, and Syria. Canada must continue to work with the international  community to provide lifesaving humanitarian aid.Can Canada not do more to provide humanitarian aid to the Central African Republic (CAR), reduce the violence, rebuild civil society, and support peace and reconciliation? And will Canada contribute to the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR, as promised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs?Iraq has slid into renewed violence and utter chaos in recent months, particularly in the north of the country. Will Canada provide more humanitarian aid, particularly as Christians and other minorities are being slaughtered? And regarding Syria, will Canada settle more refugees, as called for by the UN andas promised by Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration?On World Humanitarian Day, we should take a closer look at South Sudan, because this conflict often takes a back seat to crises such as Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine. Yet, South Sudan is the current home to the worst food crisis in the world.Although the conflict in South Sudan is less than a year old, over 10,000 people have been killed and a staggering 1.5 million displaced, including 95,500 civilians who sought refuge in ten UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) bases.These civilians remain under imminent threat to their lives, in the face of a number of failed peace agreements.  On August 15th, 2014, following a UN Security Council (UNSC) visit, fighting between government and rebel forces around Bentiu resumed once again.The parties to the conflict must do more to abide by the commitments made under the peace agreements. The UN, particularly UNMISS, must be empowered by the member states to fully and expeditiously implement its civilian protection mandate. The government, in turn, must hold all perpetrators of mass atrocities accountable, and it must put in place a comprehensive strategy aimed at ethnic and political reconciliation.All parties to the conflict in South Sudan must also immediately remove all human-made impediments to humanitarian access, so that lifesaving food, and health supplies can reach the millions of men, women and children suffering from severe hunger, malnutrition, cholera and other diseases.Currently, more than 3.5 million people are facing food insecurity, a million of them children under the age of five. UNICEF estimates that 50,000 children could die from malnutrition by the end of the year if immediate measures are not taken.The international community must not stand by and allow another famine in the Horn of Africa to take hold.However, the South Sudan Crisis Response Plan is only half funded and the South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan is funded at 30 percent.This means that all those who pledged funds at the donor pledging conference in Oslo, Norway, in May, must make good on their promises, and Canada, which did not pledge, should step-up now and do so.A funding gap of USD 865 million remains for the South Sudan Crisis Response Plan and the South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan.Will Canada fund humanitarian aid to address hunger and malnutrition, with special attention to meeting the nutritional needs of children? Will the Government help to fund community based malnutrition programs? Will Canada support the establishment of clean water and sanitation facilities to prevent the spread of cholera, diarrhea, and other water-borne diseases?On World Humanitarian Day, will the Government at last provide the Canadian public with answers to urgent questions about the world's four level-3 emergencies?Much more importantly, will the Government of Canada immediately do its share and make a second humanitarian contribution to South Sudan to avoid yet another human catastrophe?Fifty thousand children in South Sudan are waiting for Canada to do the right thing. And thousands more in the other three crisis centres are waiting for the same. Our government has a moral responsibility to do what it can.Kirsty Duncan, M.P., is the Liberal party critic for CIDA, consular affairs, and status of women.