KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief is demanding immediate access for aid distribution in famine-hit South Sudan amid continued fighting and the recent looting of a humanitarian organization.
Stephen O'Brien said after a two-day visit to South Sudan that obstacles to humanitarian assistance continue, including active hostility, access denials, and bureaucratic impediments.
"People have been displaced, brutalized and raped. They have been attacked when they sought out assistance. This must stop, and it must stop now," O'Brien said in a statement.
South Sudan's civil war began in December 2013 and roughly 100,000 people are experiencing famine in Leer and Mayendit counties, with another 1 million people on the brink of starvation across the country.
Aid workers were recently forced to relocate from famine hit Mayendit after a government official informed them there would be fighting in the area, which followed shortly after. Aid officials now fear that they will not be allowed to return to the town.
"We desperately need the fighting to stop. We need calm to prevail now so that we can consistently reach people in dire need, and prevent further catastrophe," O'Brien said.
In late February, armed groups and members of the local community looted the compound and warehouse of Save the Children in the northern Jonglei area. The organization was the only one distributing food aid in the area, which is on the brink of famine.
"This is the most extreme act by the very people we are trying to help," Peter Walsh, South Sudan director for Save the Children in a statement.
South Sudan is now the largest refugee crisis in Africa. More than 3 million people have either fled the country or are internally displaced, according to the U.N.