Call to investigate atrocities as civil war, famine ravage South Sudan

South Sudanese refugees at a supply distribution point in northern Uganda. Source: AAP

SBS World News Radio: Rebels in South Sudan are calling for an investigation into an alleged killing of civilians by government forces.

Fresh violence in South Sudan has forced hundreds more to join the more than a million people that have fled the country since fighting erupted in 2013.

Their stories offer a glimpse into the brutality of the three-year civil war.

Password Okot recently escaped to neighbouring Uganda after government forces allegedly killed 17 people on the border town of Pajok.

"The government soldiers just told us to assemble in one place, I can't even describe what followed. All of a sudden they attacked rebels' positions and then turned to us, attacking everyone they came across. All we know is a good number of people have been slaughtered."

Mr Okot says he witnessed the slaughter of his two brothers.

"I'm still in shock and I have a very heavy heart right now, I have even seriously considered going back to my village to get killed too. It's just too much to bear."

Reports allege some of those killed had their throats slit before their bodies were strung up from door frames, while two children were run down by a car.

The government denies its Sudan People's Liberation Army forces target civilians but rebels want an investigation into killings.

Fighting in South Sudan has caused the biggest refugee exodus in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

It's also largely responsible the country's food crisis: South Sudan is the only nation in the world to have declared a famine in the last six years.

David Shearer is leading the United Nations mission in the country.

His job is to get aid to those who need it most, but he says it's not an easy task.

"The country itself suffers from massive logistical problems so from getting food and trucks from Juba where we are right now up to Bentiu is a distance of a thousand kilometres and will take us two to three weeks."

He says efforts are hampered by some 80 checkpoints along the way.

"The great majority of those are not formal checkpoints, they're just simply armed groups that put a string across the road and stop trucks and demand money. The aid that the British government and others are providing is saving the lives of thousands upon thousands of South Sudanese."

Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese children are estimated to be severely malnourished and access to treatment is limited.

Justin Bumo is the Executive Director of the country's only children's hospital, Al Sabah, and he's says it's already overwhelmed.

"109 a night for only 20 beds. Just imagine where they sleep. They share beds and even some on the floor. It is really escalating and it is alarming at the moment, we don't know how far it will go, it's not only the children, so it is shocking."

With the crisis getting worse by the day, aid is needed more than ever.

But there are fears the United States, the largest contributor to the World Food Program, will cut food aid cut after the Trump administration proposed budget cuts for UN aid agencies.

But the outgoing head of the World Food Program, Ertharin Cousin, hopes US Congress will reject the cuts.

"I sincerely believe that no American wants to see images of starving babies, of starving old people, of disabled people, of women. No one in America believes that 'America first' means that other people must die."

 

 

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