Over 300,000 South Sudanese civilians are without “life-saving aid” in the northern battleground state of Unity, the United Nations said Monday, as it and aid agencies pulled out due to heavy fighting.
The violence is some of the worst in the country’s 17-month-old civil war, as government forces push south from the state capital Bentiu into an opposition zone around the town of Leer, home to some of the country’s once lucrative oil fields.
“Ongoing hostilities in Unity state have now obliged all non-governmental organizations and UN agencies to evacuate staff from Leer and other locations,” UN aid chief in South Sudan Toby Lanzer said in a statement.
“As a consequence, over 300,000 civilians who are in need of emergency relief, including food aid and medical services, do not currently have access to such life-saving assistance.”
On Friday the UN said that up to 100,000 people had been uprooted in the first week of May alone, following a marked spike in hostilities.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Saturday it was forced to pull its foreign staff out of Leer and halt all medical services amid fears the rebel-held town was about to come under “imminent attack” from government forces.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has also warned that escalating fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar was forcing thousands of civilians to flee for their lives yet again.