ARUA, Uganda – South Sudan’s leaders must end a civil war that has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions, the United Nations secretary-general said Thursday while visiting what has become the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.
“The leaders of South Sudan have not deserved the people they have,” Antonio Guterres said after touring a refugee reception center in northern Uganda. More than 900,000 refugees are sheltering in Uganda, most of them women and children. Most have arrived in the past year.
“The people [are] suffering enormously with this endless war,” Guterres said. “It is time for the war to end.”
He spoke ahead of Friday’s U.N.-backed summit in Uganda that is aimed at raising global awareness of the crisis. Uganda and the U.N. have said they need $8 billion to help the refugees and host communities over the next four years. Uganda has warned it is near the “breaking point” in taking in the refugees.
The European Union on Thursday announced 85 million euros ($94 million) in aid.
More than 1.8 million people have crossed into neighboring countries since the start of South Sudan’s conflict in December 2013.
Guterres heard the accounts of refugee children who spoke of everything from medicine shortages to the long line at the communal toilet.
Many spoke of hunger amid a reduction in U.N. food rations.
The U.N. children’s fund in Uganda this week said it requires nearly $50 million this year as well as $30 million each year from 2018 to 2020 to provide critical services, including education and child protection, to both refugees and host communities.
Although Uganda has been praised for its generous policy toward refugees, including the allocation of plots of land on which refugees can grow food, national authorities say the continuing influx is straining local resources.
Sam Wadri, the elected leader of Arua, the district hosting the Imvepi refugee reception center, told the U.N. chief that the already impoverished local community was overwhelmed.
“The source where the problem comes from must be addressed,” Wadri said.