Civilians Targeted in Hospitals across South Sudan

The targeting of medical facilities in South Sudan has had drastic consequences for civilians The targeting of medical facilities in South Sudan has had drastic consequences for civilians © Justin Lynch/Al Jazeera

27 March 2016
UN Security Council alarmed at the disturbing trend of attacks targeting civilians in hospitals across South Sudan.

A disturbing trend of attacks on hospitals and medical centres has occurred across South Sudan in recent months. Over 2.4 million displaced people have sought refuge in UN camps and healthcare facilities, only to face further violence by soldiers and opposition fighters specifically targeting these civilians. According to the South Sudanese Ministry of Health, around 50 percent of the country’s medical facilities have been destroyed.

On the morning of February 18, 48,000 residents of the Malakal Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in South Sudan were attacked and looted. At least 25 people were killed and half the shelters were destroyed. Another clinic, about 100 metres away from Malakal, run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was smouldered from the fire that struck the camp a day before. This clinic was a healthcare centre equipped with a maternity ward and programme focused on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. And days later, another clinic, run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Pibor, was looted. Already in 2014, the Malakal Teaching Hospital became the scene of a massacre.

These attacks have left people scavenging through the rubble for anything of use, such as metal pots and plastic jugs to be used for carrying water. Healthcare staff have either been displaced or fled because of the conflict, leaving many patients unattended. “We don’t have a single doctor in the Bentiu hospital,” said Wigo Gual, the Director General for Health in Unity State. “The hospital no longer has the resources they need to do their jobs and the town remains too unsafe to send valuable medical equipment to,” Gual said.

The United Nations Security Council has expressed concern over the ongoing violence and the country’s failure to implement the August 2015 Agreement on ending the conflict between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice-President Riek Machar that has killed thousands and displaced over 2.4 million people. The Council expects South Sudan to fully implement the peace agreement according to set steps.

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