The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has condemned “in the strongest terms” the fatal shooting of an internally displaced person (IDP) at one of its ‘protection-of-civilians’ sites – the second attack of its kind to strike the African nation and the Organisation in less than a week.
According to a statement issued by the Mission, UN personnel serving at the Organisation’s compound in Bentiu responded to a gunshot on the evening of July 5 only to find the body of a male IDP fatally wounded in the back.
UNMISS explained that according to eyewitness accounts two armed men in military uniforms were seen inside the ‘protection-of-civilians’ site and fled into the surrounding bush following the attack.
“Any attack on a protection-of-civilians site constitutes a direct assault against the United Nations and may constitute a war crime,” the Mission said in its condemnation of the attack.
“This is not the first time an UNMISS protection-of-civilians site has come under attack by armed elements in South Sudan and such indefensible actions will compromise the Mission’s ability to implement its mandate if they continue to go unpunished.”
The killing follows the shooting death of another internally displaced person (IDP) and the injuring of six others at another UN compound in Malakal early last week.
In that specific incident three members of forces belonging to either the Sudan People’s Liberation Army In Opposition or the allied militia led by General Johnson Olony were identified as having opened fire on IDPs at the recently inaugurated ‘protection-of-civilians’ site.
The July 5 shooting is the latest outburst of violence to afflict South Sudan as the country’s 18-month conflict continues to smoulder amid violence against civilians and deepening suffering across the country.
Some 120,000 South Sudanese are sheltered in UN compounds while United Nations estimates suggest that the number of people in need for 2015 will include an anticipated 1.95 million IDPs and a projected 293,000 refugees.
Meanwhile, the country is also being threatened by a cholera outbreak amid mounting reports of contagion throughout the capital, Juba, and the nearby city of Bor.
“It’s a race against time to prevent the spread of cholera up the River Nile, especially during rainy season,” Jonathan Veitch, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative in South Sudan said. “Our priority is reaching the most vulnerable children who urgently need clean water and vaccinations.”
UNICEF has reported more than 700 cholera cases in Juba and Bor so far and 32 deaths – one in five of which are children under five.
In South Sudan’s Central Equatoria state, where the epicentre of the outbreak is located, students and teachers in schools near cholera hotspots have invited UNICEF to make school visits to raise awareness of the main risk factors. According to the UN agency, some 1,340 students and 30 teachers have already benefited from life-saving information, with a goal of reaching 150 schools.
In addition, UNICEF is also working to strengthen health facilities, distribute soap to communities, conduct vaccination campaigns in crowded ‘protection-of-civilians’ sites and raise awareness in vulnerable communities about prevention and early detection by training volunteers, teachers and religious leaders.
“Cholera is a deadly disease that inordinately affects young children. One of the most powerful ways we can respond to this outbreak is by equipping school-children with the information and tools they need to protect themselves and their families,” Veitch said.