Wed, Dec 05, 2018 - Page 6 News List

UN says 150 girls, women raped in South Sudan

ATTACKS:A UN official said the acts showed how dire the security situation in South Sudan continues to be, especially for the nation’s women and girls

AFP, UNITED NATIONS

A South Sudanese refugee and 32-year-old mother, who said she was raped for several days by a group of soldiers before she was allowed to leave, stands by a window at a women’s center run by the aid group International Rescue Committee in Bidi Bidi, Uganda, on June 3 last year.

Photo: AP

More than 150 women and girls have come forward in the past 12 days to seek help in South Sudan after they were raped or suffered other forms of sexual violence, the heads of three UN agencies said on Monday.

Armed men, many in uniform, carried out the attacks near the city of Bentiu, according to a joint statement from UN International Children’s Emergency Fund Executive Director Henrietta Fore, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock and UN Population Fund Executive Director Natalia Kanem.

The three agencies condemned “these abhorrent attacks” and called on South Sudan authorities to ensure that the perpetrators face justice.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) last week said 125 women and girls had been raped while walking to emergency food distribution centers set up by international aid agencies.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attacks.

“These horrific acts are a distressing reminder of how, despite recent recommitments by South Sudan’s leaders to a cessation of hostilities and a revitalized peace agreement, the security situation for civilians remains dire, especially for women and children,” he said in a statement.

He urged all parties to the conflict and future leaders in South Sudan “to ensure the safety of civilians and address impunity for these crimes through investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.”

At war since 2013, South Sudan has seen horrific levels of sexual violence. In the first half of this year, about 2,300 cases were reported, most of those targeting women and girls.

More than 20 percent of the victims were children, the UN statement said.

The three agencies said that the actual number of rapes was far higher, because the violence is severely underreported.

As well as being raped, MSF said that many of the victims were “whipped, beaten or clubbed with sticks and rifle butts” and robbed of their clothes, shoes, money and the ration cards entitling them to food aid.

“In more than three years of working in South Sudan, I have never seen such a dramatic increase in survivors of sexual violence arriving at our programmes looking for medical care,” said Ruth Okello, an MSF midwife in South Sudan.

A UN panel of experts last month said in a report to the Security Council that there were “alarming levels” of sexual violence and human rights abuses in South Sudan.

The council is due to discuss the crisis in South Sudan on Dec. 18.

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