News / Africa

Civilians Bear Brunt of Jonglei State Violence in South Sudan

An MSF doctor examines a baby in Pibor, in Jonglei State in South Sudan. People who went into hiding following recent attacks continue to come in for urgently needed medical care at MSF's re-opened facilities.
An MSF doctor examines a baby in Pibor, in Jonglei State in South Sudan. People who went into hiding following recent attacks continue to come in for urgently needed medical care at MSF's re-opened facilities.
Joe DeCapua

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said it continues to treat wounded civilians in South Sudan’s Jonglei State, where ethnic violence stemming from cattle raids has left about one thousand people dead. Many of the wounded are seeking help some three weeks after an attack on the town of Pibor and villages in Pibor County.

“We have medical teams stationed in different parts of Jonglei State. Many of the people that we are receiving after the recent violence have extremely bad wounds,” said Jean Marc Jacobs, deputy head of mission in South Sudan for the group, also known as MSF.

Festering wounds

Many of the wounded are women and children. About 60 civilians had gunshot wounds. Many others had been beaten as they tried to escape the violence. There are also many malaria cases.

“The main problem that we see,” he said, “is that people have taken a very long time to actually reach medical facilities. Many of those wounds are now badly infected.”

MSF has been operating in Jonglei State since 2005 with one hospital and two outreach clinics. Jacobs said, “It is a state where access to basic services is very limited. Hospitals, schools, access to water – all these are very, very limited. The violence is preventing people from accessing these services even more.”

He added, “We are very worried by the pattern of violence that we are witnessing. This has been going on for the last couple of years. And the impact on civilians is really becoming unacceptable.”


MSF has 156 staff members in Jonglei State and they have not been immune to the violence there.

“There are still 25 that are unaccounted for and one of our staff, sadly, has been confirmed dead. This is obviously very sad news for us and we are extremely worried about that the 25 that we are still trying to locate,’ said Jacobs.

The unaccounted for workers were all hired locally. It’s possible some have sought safety with family members, but others may still be hiding in the bush. “We fear the worst, obviously,” he said.

MSF has sent teams to various parts of the state to try to locate the missing. They often found a lot of empty villages, indicating civilians are in hiding. The concern is that some may be wounded or injured and without medical care.


There are national and international troops in Jonglei State. Jacobs said, “It is not for MSF to comment on whether or not they provide security to the people.”

The U.N. Special Envoy to South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, said more peacekeeping troops are being sent to Jonglei State. There had been concerns that those troops were outnumbered by local gunmen.

While the medical aid group said it has enough supplies to treat those in need, getting the supplies to Jonglei isn’t easy. A lack of road access means the supplies must be flown in.

“It is a major undertaking, but we are making a big investment and we are committed to the population of Jonglei,” he said.

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