While the region’s population has faced violence including murder, rape, abduction, and forced cannibalism, the UN mission (Unmiss) in Unity has failed to protect local residents, according to Pete Buth, a manager of MSF’s activities in the state.
One instance of skyrocketing violence in the region was the murder of 129 children last May. The Guardian reported, citing witnesses, that “boys were castrated and left to bleed to death, girls as young as eight were gang-raped, and others were thrown alive into burning buildings.”
He said that residents of Unity State’s Leer County have been subjected to the highest levels of brutality in the entire country. Many people have been repeatedly displaced and more have been hiding in swamps for months with no food or assistance.
Despite the presence of various NGOs in Leer, the situation is far from stable, Buth added.
“We’re seeing continuing abuses and violence against civilians and a situation that is too insecure to enable proper and sustained assistance,” Buth said, commenting on the UN mission. “It is not for us to determine how to fix the situation, but it is very, very frustrating to sit on the sidelines and watch it.”
“We underscore that the responsibility to protect civilians is primarily the responsibility of the host government, and the warring parties are directly responsible for their actions in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law,” a spokesperson for the mission told Newsweek.
The civil war in South Sudan broke out in December 2013 after the country’s president accused a former vice president of planning a coup. Since then, roughly 650,000 people have fled the country, according to UN refugee agency data. Some ten thousand people have died in the ongoing conflict, BBC reported.