Four global charities have welcomed the signing of a peace deal by the president of South Sudan but said it needs to be enforced and regulated if civilians’ lives are to improve.
CARE, Oxfam, World Vision and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said in a joint statement that the deal signed on Wednesday to end a 20-month conflict between government and rebel forces was only the first step towards ending the civil war.
Rebel leader Riek Machar signed the document last week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, but President Salva Kiir, who has led South Sudan since it seceded from Sudan in 2011, delayed signing until Wednesday and told African leaders he still had “serious reservations” about the agreement.
The four charities urged diplomats to monitor the peace agreement to ensure the protection of civilians and guarantee their safe access to humanitarian assistance.
“This peace deal is a first step to restoring safety, dignity, and hope to civilians in South Sudan who have experienced horrific violence for nearly two years. But the value of the peace deal will only be seen in how it is implemented on the ground,” IRC South Sudan director Ronald-Paul Veilleux said in a statement.
Fear of new violence has led around 11,000 people – three quarters of them children – to flee to a U.N. civilian protection site in the northern town of Malakal this month, two other agencies, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP), said.
The site’s population is likely to hit 50,000 within days, though it was designed to accommodate just 18,000, the charities said in a statement on Wednesday.
Since fighting in South Sudan broke out in December 2013, more than two million people have been forced to flee their homes and 4.6 million now face hunger, the two charities said.
Also in the north, in remote areas on the west bank of the River Nile, the two agencies said they had been able to reach some 27,000 people in villages cut off since March by violence and access problems, and had finished distributing food aid to them on Monday.
“With little or no services available, children are going without nourishing food and healthcare in these villages,” said Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan. “It is a desperate situation.”
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby has said the United States would support further U.N. sanctions if Kiir was to act on his reservations and renege on the deal.
A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement: “Now is the time to ensure that this agreement translates into an end to the violence, hardship and horrific human rights violations witnessed throughout this conflict.”