Up to 150 peacekeepers are being rapidly redeployed to the Unity region to boost the UN Mission’s efforts to protect civilians being deliberately targeted by warring parties.
“What we are witnessing on the ground is the deliberate killing of civilians as well as the sexual violation and abduction of women and children. Homes and livelihoods are being systematically destroyed in a way that prevents families returning to their homes and being able to support themselves,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, David Shearer.
“Our fresh deployment will enable peacekeeping troops to patrol deeper to reach remote villages where the worst atrocities are taking place to create a protective presence and deter further fighting. It will also support the reinforcement of our base at Leer where many civilians are seeking sanctuary,” said David Shearer.
Thousands of civilians are fleeing the intense fighting as armed forces make their way down from Koch towards Leer. At least 30 villages or settlements have been attacked. UNMISS peacekeepers and human rights teams have witnessed the bodies of civilians killed during the fighting left unburied, dozens of huts burnt to the ground, cattle raiding and the destruction of critical services such as boreholes, medical clinics and food stores.
“The atrocities that we are documenting are a clear violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. Two aid workers have been killed and two wounded in the past month. Those responsible must be identified and held accountable for their actions,” said David Shearer.
A site next to the UN base at Leer previously held approximately 500 internally displaced people but the surge in violent clashes has increased numbers to about 2000. Almost 70 per cent of those seeking shelter are children.
Congestion at the site is creating huge challenges for humanitarian agencies who are returning to the area to respond to the urgent need to supply food, clean water and medical services for the displaced families. UNMISS is working closely with the agencies to support the safe delivery of aid.
The Mission continues to engage with local authorities and to urge the warring parties to stop the fighting and adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed by all parties just five months ago.