Since the end of April, the conflict-ravaged counties of Leer and Mayendit, in South Sudan’s north, have once again been wracked by violence.
Thousands of people are caught between the frontlines of the fighting, and health facilities have been attacked. The high level of violence prevents many people from reaching basic services, including healthcare, says Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders (MSF).
Women, men and children in Leer and Mayendit counties are enduring extreme levels of violence, including gang rapes and mass killings. Villages have been looted and burnt down, and food reserves and other possessions have been destroyed.
“They entered the village at six o’clock in the morning, when we were still sleeping. We woke up and ran. We didn’t have the time to take anything with us”, explains a mother of nine children.
“I saw them shooting at people. My son was hit in the chest by a bullet. They started to burn the houses down, with people still inside. The worst thing about these attacks is the way they destroy everything.” She adds.
The ongoing clashes have already forced thousands of civilians to seek refuge wherever they can in the bush, swamps and islands, with some people having been forced to move several times because of repeated attacks.
“The village we ran to looking for medical care was also attacked. It was attacked by the same people again,” continues the mother.
“This time, we didn’t have the chance to escape, so we hid by lying on the ground. They couldn’t find us. When calm returned, we fled to the bush.” She narrates.
Attacks against healthcare facilities are cutting off local communities from much needed medical assistance. In two locations where we work, our medical supplies were looted and MSF properties were destroyed.
The current fighting in Leer and Mayendit counties is the latest episode in the ruthless violence that has raged in the area for years. The civilian population has been directly targeted by all warring parties, and forced to a life on the run characterised by limited access to shelter, food, water, and life-saving medical assistance.