Members of the UN Security Council urged South Sudanese authorities on Monday to remove all constraints to humanitarian access and to address the continuing theft of resources.
“Violence has caused significant loss of life, displaced thousands of civilians and led to large-scale abductions of women and children,” said James Kariuki, the UK's deputy representative to the UN.
“It is imperative that safe, unimpeded help can reach the most vulnerable.”
Mr Kariuki echoed the messages delivered by Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Moderator of the Church of Scotland Iain Greenshields during their visit to the sub-Saharan African country last month.
Pope Francis, who was visiting the predominantly Christian country of 11 million people, pleaded with leaders to focus on ending conflicts, enacting the peace agreement and shunning the “blind fury of violence”.
The UN estimates that 7.8 million people — including 1.4 million children under the age of five — will face crisis levels of acute food insecurity during the next four months.
This year, 9.4 million people — 76 per cent of the country's population, including 350,000 refugees — will need humanitarian assistance, a 5 per cent increase from last year, Tareq Talahma, acting director of Operations and Advocacy at the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said on Monday.
“Climate change has farther driven humanitarian needs. Last year, the country experienced a fourth consecutive year of intense flooding,” said Mr Kariuki.
“Over a million people were affected as water swept away homes and livestock, flooded farmlands and submerged water resources.”
Robert Wood, the US acting deputy ambassador to the UN, said on Monday that the transitional government of South Sudan — which reported $1.6 billion in oil revenue last year — continues “to fail to allocate those resources to address the humanitarian needs of its population”.
Mr Wood “urgently” called on South Sudanese officials to “dedicate more of oil revenue” to allow for safe access and delivery of humanitarian assistance.
South Sudan has some of the largest crude oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa. A UN report published in 2021 showed that the country's leaders had diverted “staggering amounts of money and other wealth” from the public purse.
Twelve years after independence, conflict still torments the oil-rich but deeply impoverished country half a decade after its leaders declared an end to the civil war that killed 400,000 people.
President Salva Kiir, an ex-rebel who has led South Sudan since 2011, formed a transitional government in 2020 and committed to uniting the armed forces into a single army to safeguard the country — all while being locked in a vicious feud with his archrival and First Vice President Riek Machar.
His efforts have proven futile and local conflicts continue to rage.
Speaking to the UN Security Council on Monday, the UN secretary general's special representative to Sudan, Nicholas Hayssom, noted that 2023 is a “make-or-break” year and a “test for all parties” for the peace agreement.
The UN mission to Sudan - one of the most expensive in the world with an annual budget of $1.2 billion - has been asked by the government to "assist the South Sudanese-owned and administered elections," Mr Haysom said.
“The transitional government confirmed its commitment to implement the peace agreement in accordance with the timelines contained in the agreed road map,” he said.
Mr Hayssom outlined four key hurdles that the parties must clear to successfully position South Sudan to complete the final leg of the transitional phase: drafting a new constitution; preparations for peaceful, inclusive and credible elections in 2024; the expansion of civic and political space; and the consolidation and deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces.