18 May 2015 – Dozens of children have been killed, at least 12 raped and others abducted and recruited in a series of attacks in South Sudan’s Unity State over a two-week period, according to eyewitness accounts received by Unicef.
According to dozens of testimonies from people who have fled burning villages, children have been both the victims and perpetrators of recent violence in Unity State, with armed men and boys in military and civilian clothing responsible for the widespread destruction of life and property. Witnesses reported that they believed the attacks were undertaken by armed groups aligned with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
Survivors reported to Unicef staff that whole villages were burned to the ground by armed groups, while large numbers of girls and women were taken outside to be raped and killed – including children as young as seven. At least 19 boys – some as young as 10 years of age – and seven girls were killed. Others were mutilated or recruited to join the fighting and take care of stolen cattle.
Unicef Representative in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch said that multiple witness reports are building a chilling picture of the ordeal children are suffering as fighting intensifies ahead of the rainy season.
“The deliberate targeting of children in these attacks is an outrage,” said Veitch. “If children are to be protected from further harm, an immediate cessation of hostilities is urgently needed, together with full access for humanitarian workers. An urgent and thorough investigation is also required to identify and hold accountable those responsible for these latest atrocities against children.”
The Government of South Sudan and forces opposed to Government should use all influence to protect children, to immediately stop grave violations against children, including sexual violence, and to release all children from armed forces and associated groups, said Unicef.
An estimated 13,000 children have been recruited and are being used by all sides of the conflict, according to data verified by the UN.
The majority of those who survived the recent attacks in South Sudan are women and small children. Unicef and partners are providing psychosocial support to survivors and registering separated and unaccompanied children for family reunification.
Fighting has been escalating in Unity and Upper Nile states in recent weeks, with violations against children occurring with frightening regularity.
Unicef says unconditional access for the UN is now critical to areas in Unity and Upper Nile States affected by recent violence so as to provide support and protection to women and children and to all civilians who may be injured, trapped or in hiding.
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