WATCH: People with disabilities, the aged face danger in war-torn South Sudan

2017-05-31 12:23
Nyayak Olo Bapit (Supplied)

Nyayak Olo Bapit (Supplied)

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Cape Town – People with disability and the aged in war-torn South Sudan face greater risks of being caught in fighting, as they are less able to flee violence, a rights group says in a report released on Wednesday.

"People with disabilities and older people are often left behind during attacks and find themselves at much greater risk of starvation or abuse," said Shantha Rau Barriga, disability rights director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

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"This problem is especially acute in South Sudan, where decades of civil war has increased the number of people with disabilities, and where armed forces on both sides target civilians with impunity."

In February and March 2017, HRW interviewed more than 45 people with disabilities and older people in displacement sites.

An older woman, who was displaced together with her family from Mayendit to Panyijar county in the former Unity state, said that no civilians were off-limits in the attacks on her village: "The first time the government soldiers and militias came to my village in 2015, the old men and women who could not run were killed," she said.

Burnt to death

"There was Ga tpan Mut, for example, who was a little old, and Gatkui Jich, who couldn’t move, and many, many more whose names I can’t remember."

During a brutal attack by government forces on the Malakal PoC site in February 2016, three members of the same family with disabilities burned to death.

"When the fighting broke out, we fled to the UN compound and we left my mother and brother-in-law behind because they couldn’t walk and we couldn’t carry them," a 45-year-old Nuer woman said.

"The son of my brother-in-law, who had a mental health condition, would not leave his father behind so they all burned together in the fire."

Violence in South Sudan has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced more than two million people. 

The current conflict began in South Sudan on December 15, 2013, when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir – a Dinka – clashed in the capital, Juba, with those of his then-vice president, Riek Machar – a Nuer.

People with disabilities and older people have been targeted and abused by the warring parties, often because of their inability to flee ahead of attacks.

Throughout the conflict, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases of people with disabilities and older people being shot, hacked to death, or burned alive in their houses by the belligerents.

South Sudan became Africa's youngest nation in 2011 after the end of a 21 year war with its neighbour Sudan for independence.

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