The United Nations has reported massacre of children in South Sudan’s persisting civil war despite public announcements of political deals aimed at ending the nearly two-year-old conflict.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated in a report released late Friday that at least 57 children were killed in the Leer district of the northern battleground state of Unity between October 4 and 22 as armed battles escalated during the past weeks, AFP reported on Saturday.
According to the UN statement, the fighting in Unity has “intensified with grave consequences for civilians” in recent weeks as 40,000 people are starving to death.
The report estimated that at least 80 civilians perished, nearly three-quarters of which were children, in Leer — which has swapped hands multiple times between government and rebel forces — during the two-week period. It further pointed to more than 50 cases of rape in the course of the fighting, noting that the sexual abuse was being used as “a weapon of war.”
Both sides, the report said, stand accused of perpetrating ethnic massacres, recruiting and killing children and carrying out mass-scale rape, torture and forced displacement of populations in a bid to “cleanse” areas under the control of their rivals.
- Meanwhile, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) has warned of a “concrete risk of famine” before the year’s end if the deadly battles continue and aid does not reach the hardest-hit regions.
According to the UN report, nearly 3.9 million people in South Sudan remain in critical need of aid, accounting for a third of the nation’s population and reflecting a massive 80 percent rise compared to the same period last year.
The civil war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup against him, triggering a cycle of retaliatory killings that have divided the impoverished, landlocked nation along ethnic lines.
“In half of the country, one in three children are acutely malnourished and 250,000 children face starvation,” said Toby Lanzer, the UN humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, who was barred from the country earlier this month after warning of economic collapse in the country.