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UN peacekeeping forces “aiming to reach more vulnerable people in remote parts of South Sudan”

United Nations peacekeepers are expected to reach vulnerable people in remote parts of South Sudan as the UN mission in the country takes a more “nimble and proactive” approach, according to the head of the mission, David Shearer.

Mr Shearer, who is also the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan, was speaking on Wednesday in the town of Akobo, in a remote and hard-to-reach area in the north-east of the country, close to the border with Ethiopia.

“It’s clear that the needs of people in this location are immense,” said Mr Shearer, “so UNMISS is looking at ways of extending a presence in the town.”

Some 71,000 displaced people are currently living in Akobo and the surrounding area after fleeing fighting between government SPLA and opposition forces in the north-east.

Akobo lies in an opposition-held part of South Sudan. “As UNMISS we need to reach communities in need in all parts of the country, regardless of their ethnic or political background.”

The mission had operated a base in the town but it was closed down following an attack in December 2013 in which two Indian peacekeepers and thirty civilians were killed.

“I came to Akobo to listen to the needs of the community, the local authorities and the 10 to 15 humanitarian agencies which are working here,” Mr Shearer said.

“The UNMISS mandate is to protect civilians and help create an environment conducive to the delivery of humanitarian aid”, he added, “so it was important to hear from the humanitarians working here how the presence of peacekeepers and other mission personnel can help.”

UNMISS has been stepping up flights into Akobo sending in peacekeepers and UNMISS staff on temporary assignments.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).