More than 150 women and girls have come forward in the past 12 days to seek help in South Sudan after being raped or having suffered other forms of sexual violence, the heads of three UN agencies said Monday.
Armed men, many in uniform, carried out the attacks near the northern city of Bentiu, according to a joint statement from Henrietta Fore, who heads the UN children’s agency UNICEF, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock and the director of the UN Population Fund, Natalia Kanem.
The three agencies have condemned these attacks and asked that South Sudan authorities see to it 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.
South Sudan which has been at war since 2013 has seen horrific levels of sexual violence.
At the beginning of 2018, about 2,300 cases were reported majority of those targeting women and girls. More than 20 percent of the victims were children, the UN statement said.
The three agencies said the actual number of rapes was far higher because the violence usually goes unreported.
Apart from being raped, many of the victims had to endure beatings as well as being robbed of their clothes, shoes, money and the ration cards that they use to get food.
“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, a MSF midwife in South Sudan.
A panel of experts from the UN last month disclosed in a report to the Security Council that there were “alarming levels” of sexual violence and human rights abuses in South Sudan.
The council will meet to discuss the crisis in South Sudan on December 18.