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RED CROSS

South Sudan civil war victims face famine

Tens of thousands of people forced to flee violence in South Sudan could go hungry, with fighting interrupting the planting season and cutting off supply chains, the Geneva-based Red Cross warned Monday.

South Sudan civil war victims face famine
Photo: Julius Kusuma

Civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, when president Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup.
   
Most recently civilians have been uprooted from the opposition-held town of Leer, in an oil-rich part of Unity State, and from Kodok in Upper Nile State, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
   
It cautioned that hostilities could sever escape routes, and said it feared civilians could suffer from a lack of food and health care while on the run.
   
In addition, the displacement from Leer, including of many people already uprooted by fighting in Unity state a year ago, “comes just as the country's crucial planting period is under way,” ICRC said in a statement.
   
“The upheaval will no doubt negatively impact residents' ability to plant food that would be used to feed their families next harvest season,” it said.
   
The fighting had also forced the ICRC to halt its regular activities and reduce its staff in Leer, where the organization has one of its largest food
distributions in the world.
   
“Prolonged displacement exposes people to suffering. We fear that the situation of some 100,000 people in Leer, who are now hiding in unimaginably difficult conditions, will worsen day by day,” said Franz Rauchenstein, who heads the ICRC's delegation in South Sudan.
   
“The ICRC must be able to access these communities. We call upon all involved in the fighting to facilitate the lifesaving work of Red Cross workers,” he added.
   
The fighting in the world's newest country, which only gained independence from Sudan in 2011, has been characterized by ethnically-driven massacres, rape and attacks on civilians and medical facilities.
   
The violence, which has escalated into an ethnic conflict involving multiple armed groups, has killed tens of thousands of people.
   
ICRC said Monday that intensified shelling in the area of Kodok town was endangering the lives of patients at a hospital it supports there, and said
that although the hospital remained open, it had moved its nearby operational base to Oriny.
   
It reminded all parties involved in the fighting that civilians and medical facilities cannot be targeted, according to international law.
   
“The more fighting in South Sudan expands, the more . . . the vulnerable will suffer, whether from the risk of sexual violence, a lack of food and medicine or forced conscription of the young,” ICRC said, stressing that using children under the age of 15 as soldiers is a war crime.

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YEMEN

Yemen Red Cross worker dies amid safety worries

The Geneva-based Red Cross said on Tuesday that one of its volunteers was killed in Yemen, adding that it could not fly in desperately-needed aid due to a lack of security.

Yemen Red Cross worker dies amid safety worries
Photo: The Local

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for the removal of obstacles to aid delivery and for humanitarian workers be allowed to work safely in Yemen, as Arab warplanes pounded the country for a sixth day.
   
It said Yemeni Red Crescent volunteer Omar Ali Hassam had been shot dead on Monday in the southern province of Al Dhalea while evacuating wounded people.
   
The ICRC said it had a plane stocked with medical supplies to treat up to 1,000 people that had been due to arrive in the country Tuesday but efforts to negotiate its safe arrival had so far failed.
   
The supplies were "for distribution to hospitals across the country that are running low on the means to treat the war wounded" after a week of deadly clashes and air strikes.
   
"There are casualties across the country," said Cedric Schweizer, who heads an ICRC team of 300 people in Yemen.

"There have been air strikes in the north, west and south, and clashes between opposing Yemeni armed groups in the centre and south, that are putting immense strain on already weak medical services," Schweizer said. 

"In order that the wounded get the treatment they deserve, it's essential we deliver urgent medicines and surgical kits," he added.
   
An ICRC surgical team was due to arrive shortly in the southern city of Aden, which has suffered the biggest casualties so far, the organization said.
   
A Saudi-led Arab coalition has been conducting air strikes against Huthi rebels in Yemen since Thursday.
   
It has vowed to keep up the raids until the Iran-backed rebels abandon their insurrection against President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has fled to Riyadh.
   
ICRC's statement came a day after an air strike killed dozens of people and injured some 200 at a camp for displaced people in northwest Yemen, according to aid workers.

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