October 30, 2015 (BENTIU) – The medical charity, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has described the escalation of violence in South Sudan’s Unity state as a distressing situation to civilians due to lack of humanitarian access to the thousands displaced.

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Ongoing insecurity has forced Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to suspend its operations in Unity state’s Leer town (Photo: Kim Clausen/MSF)

“We heard of daily reports of extortions, abductions, mass rapes and killings, and witnessed villages burnt to the ground, crops looted and destroyed. As the conflict intensifies, violence against the civilian population is escalating,” said MSF’s emergency manager, Tara Newell.

The civilian population, the official said, are being subjected to repeated and argeted violence to a level the medical charity said it had never seen since its operation started.

On 3 October, MSF said its compound in Leer county was looted forcing their teams to evacuate and close down hospital activities for second time since May this year.

“Since then, the vulnerable population in parts of southern Unity has seen left without medical care, food support, or other humanitarian assistance,” it stressed in a statement.

Continued violence in South Sudan has reportedly forced most people to flee their homes in search for safety and were hiding in bushes and surrounding swamp lands.

Most of population in the southern part of South Sudan’s Unity state were unable to harvest their crops since the offensives in spring, and were desperately short of food, as many of them are reportedly surviving on whatever was available. Worn down by the repeated episodes of displacement, many are said to be at the limits of their endurance.

“Patients at our mobile clinics in Leer and surrounding villages described many months of insecurity,” said Newell.

“Being in constant flight, people have had no opportunity to harvest their crops. Hiding in constant fear, they have been eating lily roots or leaves to survive,” added the official.

MSF teams said they observed a concerning malnutrition situation in Leer county and surrounding villages in August and September, when rates of global acute malnutrition were estimated at between 28 and 34 percent.

Despite extremely difficult access to the population, on the few days, MSF teams were reportedly able to assess child health, rapidly identifying 78 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

In the past month, as the conflict intensified and the violence escalated in the southern part of Unity state, the humanitarian and malnutrition situation is said to have worsened.

“Without regular and reliable access to food assistance and nutritional support, those children are likely to have become acutely malnourished,” said Newell. “Those children who were already identified to be severely malnourished are very likely to have died.”

With the ongoing violence, the lack of any humanitarian assistance, the incapacity to protect the civilian population efficiently, and people’s diminishing ability to cope, MSF believes that the humanitarian crisis in southern Unity is on an unprecedented scale.

The medical charity urgently called for increased protection of the civilian population and for increased safe access for humanitarian organisations in southern parts of Unity state.