The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said on Thursday it was rapidly redeploying about 150 peacekeepers to the volatile Unity region to boost efforts to protect civilians being deliberately targeted by warring parties.

The head of UNMISS David Shearer said the redeployment was prompted by deliberate killing of civilians as well as sexual violation and abduction of women and children in the northern oil rich region.

“What we are witnessing on the ground is the deliberate killing of civilians as well as the sexual violation and abduction of women and children. Homes and livelihoods are being systematically destroyed in a way that prevents families returning to their homes and being able to support themselves,” Shearer said in a statement issued in Juba.

Shearer, who in May visited Leer and Dublual in the Unity region to see first-hand the impact of the deteriorating security situation on communities, said the intensification of the conflict is having a serious human impact as hundreds of people are living near the UN base after their homesteads were burnt down.

“Our fresh deployment will enable peacekeeping troops to patrol deeper to reach remote villages where the worst atrocities are taking place to create a protective presence and deter further fighting. It will also support the reinforcement of our base at Leer where many civilians are seeking sanctuary,” he said.

UNMISS disclosed that thousands of civilians are fleeing the intense fighting as armed forces make their way down from Koch towards Leer. It revealed at least 30 villages or settlements have been attacked.

The UN peacekeepers and human rights teams have witnessed the bodies of civilians killed during the fighting left unburied, dozens of huts burnt to the ground, cattle raiding and the destruction of critical services such as boreholes, medical clinics and food stores.

“The atrocities that we are documenting are a clear violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. Two aid workers have been killed and two wounded in the past month. Those responsible must be identified and held accountable for their actions,” said Shearer.

It added that a site next to the UN base at Leer previously held about 500 internally displaced people but the surge in violent clashes has increased numbers to about 2000. Almost 70 percent of those seeking shelter are children.

It said congestion at the site is creating huge challenges for humanitarian agencies who are returning to the area to respond to the urgent need to supply food, clean water and medical services for the displaced families. UNMISS is working closely with the agencies to support the safe delivery of aid. Enditem



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