JUBA - The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan on Thursday decried the recent "terrible" attacks against Malakal, capital of South Sudan's Upper Nile State.
"The town of Malakal is virtually deserted with no civilians, except for the remains of those who were executed," Toby Lanzer told a press briefing following his return for a visit to the town.
"Even in the hospital, the remains of people depict summarily execution," added the U.N. official. "In many parts of the town, vultures are what can be seen feeding on the dead."
The South Sudanese government admitted on Friday that rebel forces were in control of Malakal after several days of fighting.
Doctors without Border (MSF) on Wednesday said its teams had discovered at least 14 dead bodies throughout Malakal Teaching Hospital compound.
It cited testimony from some of the patients evacuated to UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) that armed groups had entered the hospital on February 19, killing anybody who had no money or mobile phones to give them.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked vice president Riek Machar of standing behind a failed coup attempt against his regime.
The violence has already claimed more than 10,000 lives.
The UN estimates that some 3.7 million South Sudanese are now "severely food insecure," while more than 867,000 have been displaced by the fighting.
Lanzer, who was accompanied in the trip to Malakal by the Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland, said civilians in Malakal were terrorized.
"At the U.N. compound there are about 25, 000 people who have sought shelter," he said.
"The people in the U.N. compound are so terror-stricken. They said they cannot put a foot outside the compound," he added.
"The need now is for reconciliation. It may sound a dream for the people fighting but it is the only way can save the nation," insisted the U.N. official.
Concerning humanitarian aid, Lanzer said they will focus on prepositioning relief items before the rains season starts in the next 7 to 8 weeks.
"Some 146,000 tons of food will be put in key towns before the rains and we shall have the communities look after them," he added.
"In areas of insecurity, there will be need to preposition the foods in the U.N. bases," added the official.
The Norwegian Refugee Council chief, for his part, lamented what South Sudan has come to only a few years after its independence.
"We cannot let a young nation like this implode in bitterness, anger and hate," he said.
"There is need to stop the vicious cycle of revenge in the country. There have been enough killing, looting on both sides and there is need to say enough is enough and start rebuilding the country through reconciliation," Jan added.
"The stories of the wars are harrowing but you can hear aid workers ready to rebuild. Civilians are also ready to start rebuilding what has been destroyed if they are assisted. Their strength is still there."
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