Sexual violence rampant in South Sudan’s Unity area: UN

The UN warns that endemic conflict-related sexual violence continues in northern Unity state. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 February 2019

Sexual violence rampant in South Sudan’s Unity area: UN

  • At least 134 women and girls were raped, including some as young as eight, between September and December last year
  • The upsurge in sexual violence is partially attributed to large numbers of fighters on “standby,” awaiting implementation of security arrangements

JUBA, South Sudan: Brutal sexual violence committed with “pervasive impunity” and a level of “premeditation” persists in South Sudan’s northern region, the United Nations said on Friday.
At least 134 women and girls were raped, including some as young as eight, between September and December last year, according to a report issued by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Mission in South Sudan. An additional 41 females suffered different forms of sexual and physical violence, said the report.
Even though South Sudan signed a fragile peace deal on September 12 to end the country’s five-year civil war, which killed almost 400,000 people, the UN warns that endemic conflict-related sexual violence continues in northern Unity state. The UN investigation comes soon after outrage that followed a report by the medical charity Doctors Without Border which said that that 125 women and girls had been raped, whipped and clubbed in a 10-day period in the Unity region at the end of November.
Almost 90 percent of the women and girls were raped by more than one perpetrator and often over several hours, said the UN report. Pregnant women and nursing mothers were also among the victims, including one mother who was nine months pregnant.
“The volatility of the situation in South Sudan combined with the lack of accountability for violations and abuses committed throughout Unity, likely leads armed actors to believe that they can get away with rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights.
Most of the attacks were carried out by youth militia groups loyal to First Vice President Taban Deng Gai as well as South Sudan’s government army, said the report.
Internal documents seen by the Associated Press detailing the locations, scale and dates of the attacks, showed that the areas where they occurred are under control of forces allied to the First Vice President, according to a South Sudan security expert who spoke on condition of anonymity because wasn’t authorized to speak to the press.
The government is conducting its own investigation into the charges, however after a preliminary inquiry it denied that the accounts were real.
“Nothing of this kind occurred in Bentiu,” said Rabi Emanuel, the government representative at a meeting in Juba in January chaired by the Cease-fire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, the group charged with overseeing the implementation of the peace deal.
The upsurge in sexual violence is partially attributed to large numbers of fighters on “standby,” awaiting implementation of security arrangements under the new peace agreement, said the report.
By May, both government and opposition forces are expected to have been housed in barracks, trained and merged into one national army. However, with only three months left in the pre-transitional stage of the deal the security arrangements have not yet been implemented because of a lack of funds.


US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

Updated 31 October 2020

US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

  • On Friday the US set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours
  • More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began

WASHINGTON: The United States passed nine million reported coronavirus cases on Friday and broke its own record for daily new infections for the second day in a row, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, as Covid-19 surges days before the country chooses its next president.
The US, which has seen a resurgence of its outbreak since mid-October, has now notched up 9,034,295 cases, according to a real-time count by the Baltimore-based school.
On Friday the country set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours, breaking the record of 91,000 it had set just one day earlier.
With the virus spreading most rampantly in the Midwest and the South, hospitals are also filling up again, stretching the health care system just as the nation heads in to flu season.
"We are not ready for this wave," Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University school of public health, warned on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday.

COVID-19 tally by the John Hopkins University of Medicine as of October 30, 2020.

Authorities in El Paso, Texas, imposed a curfew this week to protect "overwhelmed" health care workers and began setting up field hospitals.
But a judge's attempt to shut down non-essential businesses in the city has been challenged by the mayor and the state's attorney general, the Washington Post reported.
Midwestern state Wisconsin has also set up a field hospital in recent weeks, and hospital workers in Missouri were sounding warning bells as cases rise.
Hospitals in the western state of Utah were preparing to ration care by as early as next week as patients flood their ICUs, according to local media.
The pattern of the pandemic so far shows that hospitalizations usually begin to rise several weeks after infections, and deaths a few weeks after that.
More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began, the Hopkins tally showed as of Friday, with the daily number of deaths creeping steadily upwards in recent weeks also -- though at present it remains below peak levels.
For months public health officials have been warning of a surge in cases as cooler fall weather settles over the US, driving more people indoors.
As the weather changes, New York and other parts of the northeast, which were the epicenter of the US outbreak in the spring but largely controlled the virus over the summer, were reporting a worrying rise.
Some epidemiologists believe that Covid-19 spreads more easily in drier, cool air.
Rural areas, which in the spring appeared to be getting off lightly compared to crowded cities, were also facing spikes with states like North Dakota charting one of the steepest rises in recent weeks.
The state is so overwhelmed that earlier this month it told residents they have to do their own contact tracing, local media reported.
With four days to go until the election, Donald Trump was battling to hold on to the White House against challenger Joe Biden, who has slammed the president's virus response.
"It is as severe an indictment of a president's record as one can possibly imagine, and it is utterly disqualifying," Biden said Friday as the toll passed nine million.
Trump downplays the virus even as the toll has been accelerating once more, holding a slew of rallies with little social distancing or mask use.
He has repeatedly told supporters that the country is "rounding the curve" on Covid infections.
But Americans, wary of crowded polling booths on Election Day as the virus spreads, are voting early in record numbers.