UN intends to step up humanitarian action and reconciliation efforts in Yei
Eugene Owusu, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRG) at UNMISS, yesterday led a high-level delegation on a visit to the troubled town of Yei. The local bishop and authorities described worsened security and humanitarian conditions and a lack of constructive dialog in the area, to which Mr. Owusu promised that the UN shall respond by stepping up humanitarian and other efforts.
The fact-finding mission, limited to three brief meetings with local authorities, Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe, and women IDP's, took place following a recent visit to Yei by Adama Dieng, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Genocide Prevention, who warned stakeholders of a dire and deteriorating situation in the area.
UN staff and other humanitarian actors have frequently been denied access to Yei, where an estimated 100,000 people have been feeling trapped and insecure since the outbreak of fighting in July this year. The successful DSRSG-led delegation included the U.S. Ambassador Molly Phee, the USAID representative Emily Dakin and several UNMISS staff members.
The travelling party was soon informed about a wide range of increasingly acute concerns, expressed by Bishop Tombe and in a handwritten letter from female Internally Displaced Persons in Yei town and its vicinities. Security concerns led to the current harvest not being collected and the one that should have followed not being planted. Hunger, following the quickly depleting food rations delivered by the World Food Programme (WFP), is a major problem, and so are the lack of medics, medicines and educational material.
Some relief aid has, however, managed to reach the thousands of needy in the Yei area. On 19 October, some 9,500 people in Loca West and Logwili in Lainya received food rations, and another estimated 51,700 people received similar assistance on 9 November. Approximately 25,000 children and women of child-bearing age have been vaccinated, malnourished children and vulnerable women have been given nutritional supplements, and another 5,000 of the most vulnerable IDPs have received non-food items.
Eugene Owusu took the opportunity to pledge intensified UN humanitarian support to the affected people, “particularly the large number of people who are cut off outside Yei town”, but also inside Yei town. His promise was echoed by Molly Phee, who ensured that her country will continue to assist the people in the area through the WFP.
The DSRSG also agreed with the Bishop and with the Governor of Yei River State, David Lokonga Moses, on another top priority: making communities engaged in conflicts talk to each other in a constructive way.
“At this time dialogue and reconciliation and healing are paramount. We urge the Governor to ensure the guns are silent, because without peace Yei can never go back to where it used to be before”, says Mr. Owusu.
Governor Lokonga welcomed the support from the international community in leading dialogue workshops, but also affirmed but plenty is being done locally as well, including the finalization of what he calls “a concept paper of a road map to dialogue”. Religious and other local leaders have been tasked with leading the way.
“They are very active and are moving forward with consultations with the people who may have taken up arms for whatever reason, and explain to them that this is not helping us”.