News / Africa

South Sudan Women, Children Hard Hit as Violence Spreads: Aid Agencies

  • Members of the South Sudan rebel delegation attend the opening ceremony of South Sudan's peace negotiations, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 4, 2014.
  • Taban Deng Gai, left, head of the rebel delegation and South Sudan's leader of the government delegation, Nhial Deng Nhial, attend the opening ceremony of South Sudan's peace negotiations, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 4, 2014.
  • Unidentified members of the delegation from the South Sudan government and western observers meet at the Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 4, 2014.
  • A displaced mother and her baby, one of the few to have a mosquito net, wake up at a refugee camp, Awerial, South Sudan, Jan. 2, 2014.
  • A young displaced girl carries a bucket of water back to her makeshift shelter at a United Nations compound. The compound has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Displaced people gather inside a mosquito net tent as they flee from the fighting between the South Sudanese army and rebels in Bor town, in Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 30, 2013.
  • A displaced woman hangs up laundry on the plastic sheeting wall of a latrine at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Yared, 2, is held by his mother, Madhn, who fled from the town of Bor a few days ago. She receives medicine for her child at a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) medical tent, at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
  • A young displaced boy rests on the wheel arch of a water truck while others fill containers from it, at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Africa, Dec. 31, 2013.
  • A family makes tea outside their makeshift shelter at a United Nations compound, Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 31, 2013.
  • A general view of a camp for displaced people set up in a United Nations compound in Bor, South Sudan, Dec. 25, 2013.
  • South Sudan army soldiers hold their weapons as they ride on a truck in Bor, Dec. 25, 2013.
Violence in South Sudan
Andrew Green
United Nations officials and aid agencies warned Tuesday that the humanitarian situation in South Sudan is rapidly deteriorating, with women and children the hardest hit.

The U.N. Mission in South Sudan said some 100,000 people have been internally displaced by fighting that broke out nine days ago in Juba and has spread across the country.

The majority of the displaced are women and children, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) country representative Iyorlumun Uhaa said.

“We know that this is disproportionately affecting the lives of children," Uhaa said.

"As the situation continues to evolve, we are very concerned that the lives of many, many more children will be at risk,” he said.

While fighting has died down in Juba, hundreds of children have been separated from their families and are living alone at two U.N. camps in the capital, Uhaa said. 

UNICEF and the World Food Program are trying to provide temporary shelter and emergency food rations to as many of them as possible, he said.

But the bigger concern is the children whom 
Internally displaced boys stand next to barbed wire inside a United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Juba, Dec. 19, 2013. U.N. officials say many children have been separated from their families since fighting broke out on Dec. 16, and are particularly vulnerable.Internally displaced boys stand next to barbed wire inside a United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Juba, Dec. 19, 2013. U.N. officials say many children have been separated from their families since fighting broke out on Dec. 16, and are particularly vulnerable.
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Internally displaced boys stand next to barbed wire inside a United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Juba, Dec. 19, 2013. U.N. officials say many children have been separated from their families since fighting broke out on Dec. 16, and are particularly vulnerable.
Internally displaced boys stand next to barbed wire inside a United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Juba, Dec. 19, 2013. U.N. officials say many children have been separated from their families since fighting broke out on Dec. 16, and are particularly vulnerable.
humanitarian agencies have not been able to reach, especially in Jonglei state, which has been a flashpoint in the fighting, Uhaa said.

“A lot of children that are in the Bor area, we have no access to them because of the growing insecurity, and we are so concerned about what is happening to them,” he said.

The U.N. estimates at least 17,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Bor.

Women Vulnerable in Overcrowded Camps


Wendy Taueber, the head of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in South Sudan, which has a program to treat victims of gender-based violence, said women are particularly vulnerable in the overcrowded camps that have been set up for people fleeing the violence.

“There’s no safe space for women in the camps," Taueber said.

"There’s not a safe place to even have a conversation, let alone start to look at bigger issues like the extent of sexual violence,” she said.

Taueber and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the fighting is continuing to spread. MSF reported Sunday that it received 24 patients with gunshot wounds after clashes broke out in Upper Nile state, in the northeast of the country. Two of the patients died, MSF said.

A displaced woman stirs fortified cereal mix at the U.N. compound where she has sought shelter in Juba, Dec. 23, 2013.A displaced woman stirs fortified cereal mix at the U.N. compound where she has sought shelter in Juba, Dec. 23, 2013.
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A displaced woman stirs fortified cereal mix at the U.N. compound where she has sought shelter in Juba, Dec. 23, 2013.
A displaced woman stirs fortified cereal mix at the U.N. compound where she has sought shelter in Juba, Dec. 23, 2013.
Fighting has been reported in at least half of South Sudan's 10 states over the past nine days, and officials estimate that more than 500 people have been killed, although a precise toll is not available.

President Salva Kiir has blamed the clashes on a failed coup attempt by his former vice president Riek Machar, an accusation that the former deputy has denied.

President, ex-Deputy Open to Talks


Both the president and his former deputy have said they are willing to hold talks to try to end the violence.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Mawien Makol Arik said Kiir is ready to hold talks with Machar without conditions.

But the former vice president, who has been in hiding since the fighting broke out, has told different media outlets that he will not enter into a dialogue with Kiir until 11 senior members of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) party, who were arrested in the days after the fighting started, are released.

“The president has set the dialogue without conditions. Machar is putting conditions for him, but the president says, 'I am accepting dialogues with no conditions.' So dialogue is accepted but has not occurred yet,” Arik said.

Government officials have said they will not release any of the political leaders who have been arrested until security forces complete an investigation.

U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, confirmed after meeting with Kiir in Juba on Monday that the president has agreed to hold talks with Machar, without conditions, to try to resolve the conflict.

Booth also met with the group of 11 political leaders who are being held in Juba, and said they are "secure and well taken care of."

"These individuals communicated to me their desire – and their readiness – to play a constructive role in ending the crisis through peaceful political dialogue and national reconciliation," Booth said.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: charlie from: California
December 24, 2013 12:09 PM
If France feels impels to protect civilians in the Central African Republic, the former French Equatorial Africa, then Britain and Egypt owe the same duty to the southern Sudan as the former colonial powers in Sudan. Cameron should step up to the plate. Britain owes it to the Christian southern Sudanese, converted by the British under the empire. It owes them help in the Sudan, not in London as war refugees.

The women and children always get left behind in the war zone. This is a civil war that shouldn't be allowed to start. Even Russia could send troops, they talk a lot about their Orthodox Christian credentials now. At least they shouldn't criticize anyone who tries to help. This should be about salvaging a new state and getting it on its' feet. Any Good Samaritans this Christmas?

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