Unspeakable violence against children in South Sudan must stop – UNICEF chief

A child receives ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), at the UNICEF-supported Al-Shabbah Children’s Hospital, in Juba, South Sudan. Photo: UNICEF/Sebastian Rich

New York, 18 June 2015 – The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has appealed “in the name of humanity and common decency” for a halt to the worsening violence against children in South Sudan that has seen boys reportedly castrated and left to bleed to death and girls as young as eight who have been gang raped and murdered.

“The violence against children in South Sudan has reached a new level of brutality,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement issued Wednesday. “The details of the worsening violence against children are unspeakable, but we must speak of them.”

Mr. Lake said as many as 129 children from Unity state in South Sudan were killed during only three weeks in May.

“Survivors report that boys have been castrated and left to bleed to death,” he said. “Girls as young as 8 have been gang raped and murdered…Children have been tied together before their attackers slit their throats…Others have been thrown into burning buildings.”

Further, he said “children are also being aggressively recruited into armed groups of both sides on an alarming scale.”

An estimated 13,000 children have been forced to participate in a conflict not of their making, according to UNICEF.

“Imagine the psychological and physical effects on these children – not only of the violence inflicted on them but also the violence they are forced to inflict on others,” Mr. Lake said.

“In the name of humanity and common decency this violence against the innocent must stop,” he said.

South Sudan’s ongoing conflict began in December 2013 and has been marked by brutal violence against civilians and deepening suffering across the country. Some 120,000 people are sheltered in UN compounds there while United Nations estimates that the number of people in need for 2015 will include an anticipated 1.95 million internally displaced persons and a projected 293,000 refugees.