19 August 2010 – A Southern Sudanese minister called on aid organizations to prepare contingency plans ahead of the January 2011 referendum during a meeting held in Juba today to mark World Humanitarian Day.
"Southern Sudan is at a sharp turning point where the southerners are to be given their right to self-determination," said Government of Southern Sudan Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Preparedness James Kok Ruea.
The minister said the next five months would be crucial in assessing humanitarian needs in Southern Sudan and defining the relationship between the regional government and its partners in planning and delivering humanitarian assistance.
Mr. Ruea warned of three scenarios related to the referendum that could take place next year. If the referendum was disrupted or cancelled, he said tensions in the south would escalate and the country would be on the brink of renewed war.
If the referendum went forward and a vote in favour of unity was proclaimed, disappointed southerners would cause trouble and destabilize the region, the humanitarian minister said.
But even a vote for separation that was accepted by the government in Khartoum would bring its own problems to Southern Sudan, said Mr. Ruea. A separation poll would trigger an exodus from North Sudan of an estimated 1.5 million southerners living in camps for internally displaced persons, along with an influx of refugees still residing in neighboring countries.
"In this respect, I call upon all actors and well-wishers to prepare and support this important historic event," Minister Ruea told representatives of the regional government, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations attending the event.
UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Southern Sudan Lise Grande congratulated all humanitarian groups operating in the region for their continued commitment and support to the local population since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005.
"In the lead-up to that historic referendum, those of us who are dealing with humanitarian assistance should see to it that necessary services are given to the people," Ms. Grande said.
Floods, food shortages, malnutrition and disease are some of the humanitarian issues facing the country's 10 southern states. Humanitarian needs in Southern Sudan are expected to increase in the aftermath of the January referendum.