South Sudan: 125 women and girls treated for sexual violence in one week

Patient leaving MSF clinic inside Bentiu town

SOUTH SUDAN 2016 © David Gilkey/NPR

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN, NOVEMBER 30, 2018—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams provided emergency medical and psychosocial assistance to 125 women and girls who were raped, beaten, and brutalized in Rubkona county, northern South Sudan, in the 10 days from November 19 to 29.

"Women and young girls have been coming to the MSF clinic in Bentiu town en masse over the past week after surviving horrific episodes of sexual violence," said Ruth Okello, MSF midwife in South Sudan. "Some are girls under 10 years old and others are women older than 65. Even pregnant women have not been spared from these brutal attacks."

In addition to being violently raped, the survivors have been whipped, beaten, or clubbed with sticks and rifle butts. They were also robbed of money, clothes, shoes, and anything else of value that they might have possessed, and which they may need to support their families. Even their ration cards to receive food distributions have been taken and destroyed by their attackers. 

These incidents of sexual and gender-based violence coincide with an increase of population movements as people try to reach food distributions in the area. Women say they are walking in larger groups for safety but, in turn, are being confronted by increasingly larger groups of aggressive assailants.

"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 programs looking for medical care," said Okello. "We treated 104 sexual and gender-based violence survivors in the first 10 months of this year, and we have assisted 125 survivors in the past week alone."

"Children, women, and men of the ravaged county of Rubkona urgently need safety and protection to be able to reach humanitarian assistance such as food distributions," said Akke Boere, MSF operational manager for South Sudan. "These horrifying attacks show that they continue to live in an extremely violent and insecure environment."