Do not damage health infrastructure, combatants told

Do not damage health infrastructure, combatants urged by Mr. Melker Mabeck
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An international humanitarian organization has urged the combatants in the South Sudan conflict to refrain from damaging medical infrastructure and not to hinder aid workers from performing their duties.

An international humanitarian organization has urged the combatants in the South Sudan conflict to refrain from damaging medical infrastructure and not to hinder aid workers from performing their duties.

The head of International Committee of the Red Cross in South Sudan, Mr. Melker Mabeck, reminded the parties to the conflict to ensure that the injured have access to health facilities, and that medical personnel and humanitarian workers can carry out their duties.

"People taking part in the fighting must not damage property, facilities or vehicles associated with medical and humanitarian work," Mr. Mabeck said. "Such damage is a clear violation of international humanitarian law."

He added that the continuing violence in country has left thousands wounded, many of whom risk death, as the unstable situation stops them getting medical treatment. Since the beginning of the crisis, the ICRC has performed nearly 1,200 operations.

He said that the situation in some parts of the country remain tense and unpredictable, and humanitarian needs remain immense. "Some people are unable to obtain medical care quickly enough because they are afraid of being attacked and killed. And we continue to be worried about reports of attacks on patients in several places and the destruction of health facilities," said Mr. Mabeck.

Ms. Kerry Page, ICRC health coordinator said that it takes days or weeks before victims of violence can reach a medical facility. This leads to unnecessary deaths.

"Many die of wounds that they could have survived, simply because they are unable to obtain treatment in time."

To treat the increasing numbers of people injured, the ICRC has deployed several mobile surgical teams of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses. The teams work in hospitals and remote medical facilities around the country.

"Our colleagues have been working around the clock, saving lives in hospitals, remote health facilities and a camp for displaced persons, often working in extreme conditions," said Ms Page. The ICRC has been working with South Sudan Red Cross volunteers, who perform first aid, dressing wounds and assist the medical staff.

ICRC teams are working in all 10 states of South Sudan, including remote areas in the regions most badly affected by the violence, helping the victims of the violence and identifying the most urgent humanitarian needs.

According to the UN, since the start of the crisis, some 708,900 people have been displaced by violence within South Sudan. Another 215,904 people have fled to neighbouring countries. An estimated 4.9 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

So far, an estimated 764,600 people have been provided with humanitarian assistance, and another 3.2 million will need assistance by June. Aid agencies have sent an appeal to donors for funds to help meet their humanitarian budget.

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