Rape figures soar as attackers exploit South Sudan aid handouts
In the last 10 days, 125 women and girls have been raped while seeking emergency food in Bentiu, South Sudan, medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Friday.
"Women and young girls have been coming to the MSF clinic in Bentiu en masse over the past week after surviving horrific episodes of sexual violence," said Ruth Okello, an 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," she said.
The attacks, by unknown men in the northern city of Bentiu, occurred as hungry women and girls tried to reach emergency food distributions set up by international aid agencies, MSF said.
As well as being raped, MSF said many of the victims were "whipped, beaten or clubbed with sticks and rifle butts" and robbed of their meagre possessions, including clothes, shoes, money and the ration cards entitling them to food aid.
"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 programmes 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."
South Sudan's latest civil war began five years ago and has been characterised by mass rape and attacks on civilians, often along ethnic lines.
The conflict has killed an estimated 380,000 people, pushed millions to the brink of starvation and triggered a regional refugee crisis.