The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, has begun a visit to South Sudan to assess the humanitarian situation and to study the ICRC's response. Mr Maurer, who arrived in Juba today, will conclude his visit on 9 January.
The president will visit people forced by the violence to flee their homes and will meet with government officials and representatives of humanitarian organizations, including the South Sudan Red Cross. He will focus on the suffering and distress caused by the conflict in South Sudan and on the ICRC's work to meet people's needs.
"We're very concerned about the effects on the civilian population," said Mr Maurer upon his arrival. "Tens of thousands have fled and continue to flee the fighting and there are urgent needs in many parts of the country. We're particularly alarmed by violence directed against civilians and against people no longer taking part in the hostilities. We call on the parties to the conflict in South Sudan to do their utmost to ensure these people are spared."
ICRC staff are working in many affected areas of the country. From the first clashes on 15 December, the ICRC has been supporting medical facilities by providing them with urgently needed supplies and has treated wounded people. To date it has distributed food and other essential items to over 50,000 people.