Warning of the risk of an unmanageable humanitarian crisis, the Lutheran World Federation is calling on the international community to pressure the conflicting parties in South Sudan to the immediate cessation of hostilities agreed in January.
In a statement Friday the Geneva-based LWF, which carries out humanitarian work in the world's newest country pleaded for an enhancement of the presence of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
"We see a high risk of the conflict intensifying and destabilizing the entire region with a humanitarian crisis of unmanageable proportions," says Rev. Eberhard Hitzler, director of the LWF Department for World Service.
The office of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said she will visit South Sudan from April 28 to 29. to discuss the worsening human rights situation after recent mass killings in Bentiu and Bor.
During her visit, Pillay plans to meet with President Salva Kiir and senior government officials along with the National Human Rights Commission. She will also attempt to meet opposition leaders either in South Sudan or in Addis Ababa, where she also plans to meet senior officials involved in the South Sudan peace process.
The protection of South Sudan's one million internally displaced persons is further eroding amid persistent violence and deliberate ethnically targeted attacks, United Nations Special Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani had warned Tuesday.
Beyani is the U.N. Human Rights Council expert entrusted with monitoring, reporting and advising on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world.
He visited South Sudan in November and this week expressed his outrage at the deliberate attacks against areas where displaced people shelter.
He said last week's massacre in a mosque and ethnically targeted killings in a hospital in Bentiu and the attack against the protected site of the UN Mission in South Sudan in Bor, left hundreds dead and many more wounded.
ONE MILLION DISPLACED PEOPLE
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates there are more than 927,000 displaced persons in the country, with the highest increase in Upper Nile State by mid-April. In addition, there are another 289,000 South Sudanese refugees in the region.
The Lutheran World Federation said it is highly concerned about the growing vulnerability of civilians and reduced humanitarian access to internally displaced people inside South Sudan.
It cited the recent targeted killings in the Unity State capital of Bentiu and deadly attack at the United Nations base in Bor, Jonglei State, as adding to the growing insecurity since conflict erupted in the country in mid-December.
"That both sides in the conflict still believe in a military logic that has recently left thousands dead and caused unimaginable destruction can only dampen the signs of hope that this young nation had begun to experience," Hitzler said.
In mid-December, the LWF said it was forced to scale down its work inside South Sudan, stop development work and evacuate some of its staff due to growing insecurity.
At present, all staff have returned and are working work on relief assistance to internally displaced persons in remote areas.
"The LWF remains committed to working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, ACT Alliance members and other partners to assist internally displaced South Sudanese and those seeking refuge in neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda," said the statement.
Hitzler stressed the responsibility of the local authorities to collaborate with the global community in ensuring the protection of all civilians and safe humanitarian access.
In South Sudan, the LWF has worked for years with rural communities in Jonglei, Eastern Equatoria and Upper Nile states to build sustainable livelihoods, promote peace, human rights and reconciliation, and strengthen capacity to respond to disasters.