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Increased hostilities in the Western Equatoria Region

4/4/2006 1:32pm

04 Apr 2006 17:43:00 GMT

Source: International Medical Corps (IMC) - USA
Santa Monica, CA, March 31, 2006 -- Armed forces attacked Yambio in the Western Equatoria Region of South Sudan in the early morning hours of March 19th, forcing International Medical Corps staff to flee. The eight-hour attack resulted in an unconfirmed number of causalities. IMC personnel, along with staff from other NGOs, although safe and uninjured, were evacuated out from Yambio on the same day, whilst precautionary withdrawals from the neighbouring county of Tambura occurred on Monday 20th.

The Equatorial region has witnessed increased insecurity since October of 2005. NGOs have been operating a restricted movement policy with armed escorts required for certain localities, and staff members have been instructed to be extra vigilant at all times. Insecurity along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been increasing over the past weeks. This has led to significant disruption of some of the humanitarian operations in the area and has also caused displacement of the local population. There is still a fear of increased instability and insecurity in the coming months, posing a tangible threat to the continuation of humanitarian activities throughout the region.

IMC, which has been providing humanitarian assistance in South Sudan since 1995, has temporarily relocated expatriate staff to Nairobi in response to these security concerns. National staff were able to remain in both Yambio and Tambura and continue to provide critical humanitarian services.

IMC’s programs include supporting 41 Primary Health Care (PHC) facilities in Yambio and Tambura, immunization programs targeting women and children, Emergency Obstetric Care services, Provision of basic drugs and Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials for HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Elephantiasis, and Guinea Worm as well as capacity building and extensive training of health staff.

This most recent incident illustrates the need for increased attention from the international community surrounding the issue of security, not only for humanitarian relief organizations, but also for local populations. With NGOs forced to scale down current activities in both Yambio and Tambura, program activities and the path towards development and stability within South Sudan is severely hindered.

Considering Greater Equatoria is expecting the most number of returnees (227,000 or 33% of the total expected), IMC urges national, regional, and international authorities to be aware of the real constraints to program implementation that this insecurity poses and to take immediate steps toward developing an adequate security infrastructure.

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