New York, NY, May 9, 2018 — In response to the Statement from the Press Secretary on the Civil War in South Sudan on May 8, 2018, Ciaran Donnelly, senior vice president of international programs at the International Rescue Committee, said:
“For most of its young life, South Sudan and its people have been trapped in a vicious cycle of conflict punctuated by flawed and failed peace attempts. As an operational humanitarian agency working to alleviate the conflict-driven suffering of the South Sudanese people, we share the US government’s frustration at the unwillingness to reach a speedy and peaceful resolution to the conflict and the heartbreaking disregard for human life displayed by all parties to this conflict.
The IRC welcomes US efforts on conflict resolution and inclusive and accountable political process – both are essential foundations for durable peace and inclusive development. And only focused and determined US and international diplomacy can make these long-sought goals a reality.
But while the South Sudanese people wait for and work toward the government they deserve, independently-delivered humanitarian aid is the last remaining lifeline for the long-suffering civilian population – over half of whom are dependent on humanitarian assistance (7.6 million). This conflict has driven 4 million, mostly women and children, from their homes and left more than five million people on the brink of starvation, resulting in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
The IRC recognizes the US’s generosity as the largest humanitarian donor to South Sudan, and we urge the US government to use this review as an opportunity to recommit to the people of South Sudan by affirming that life-saving humanitarian assistance, delivered by credible international partners, will not be affected by the review.
The South Sudanese people, caught between an intensifying conflict and deepening food insecurity crisis, must not be used as a political bargaining chip or forced to pay an even higher price for the failings of their leaders. Through our staff on the ground — almost all of whom are South Sudanese themselves — we see the hopes and potential of the people of South Sudan. We see beyond their suffering and understand that while humanitarian assistance can be the difference between life and death today, they yearn to play an active role in rescuing their communities and eventually their country from catastrophe.
While frustration and anger with the Government of South Sudan is justified, the US and the international community must not give up on the people of South Sudan. Halting or cutting humanitarian aid would only punish innocent civilians, not their leaders who are responsible for the ongoing crisis.
The only way to ease the suffering of the South Sudanese people is to end this conflict. Cutting humanitarian assistance will not hasten an end to war - it will only lead to further suffering and certain, yet preventable, death of South Sudan’s most vulnerable.”