Aftermath of mass rape in South Sudan augments need for healthcare

Aftermath of mass rape in South Sudan augments need for healthcare

On July 11, 2016, South Sudanese soldiers went on a four-hour pillage of the Terrain Hotel in Juba, assaulting and gang-raping foreign aid workers and killing a local journalist. The United Nations peacekeeping force, which was stationed less than a mile away, did not respond to cries for help.

When recounting the attack to The Associated Press, a female aid worker explained that a soldier pointed an AK-47 at her and gave her the following choices: “Either you have sex with me, or we make every man here rape you and then we shoot you in the head.”

This foreign aid worker was not the only woman raped during the attack at the Terrain Hotel. A group of 30 foreign aid workers were staying at the hotel when a group of roughly 80 soldiers stormed the compound, beating, assaulting and raping its inhabitants.

This attack indicates growing hostility toward aid workers and foreigners by soldiers under President Salva Kiir’s command. Kiir has been fighting supporters of rebel leader Riek Machar since the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan in 2013.

Survivors of the attack reported they started sending messages via Facebook, text and email minutes after the attack began to United Nations peacekeeping troops situated less than a mile from the Terrain Hotel. The United Nations Joint Operations Center in Juba received the first cry for help at 3:37 p.m.

The timeline of events indicates that at 6:52 p.m., the United Nations Department of Safety and Security indicated it would not be sending military help to the compound. This response was surprising because the United Nations passed a U.S.- sponsored resolution to strengthen and bolster peacekeeping troops in South Sudan on Aug. 12, 2016.

The aftermath and health implications of the attack, which were increased by the United Nations’ inaction, augments the need for healthcare facilities in South Sudan. Only 292 km north of Juba, the Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization’s clinic in Maar is working to serve this vital need.

“South Sudan already has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, and these attacks do nothing to improve this,” said Jacob Atem, co-founder of SSHCO. “In addition to the possibility of becoming pregnant or contracting a STD, these women must also deal with the psychological consequences of rape on their own. Caught in the crossfire of war, these women are unable to access the care they need. This must change.”

As the World Health Organization explains, the health consequences of sexual violence range from pregnancy and gynecological complications to unstable mental health. With limited healthcare facilities and medical supplies available in South Sudan, the services the South Sudan Healthcare Organization provides in Maar are needed now more than ever.

In light of the recent attacks, the importance of accessible prenatal care and women’s health facilities continues to increase.

In addition to SSHCO’s mission to provide healthcare services, medical supplies and education to uplift the people of South Sudan, the organization hopes to build clinics that will focus on maternal healthcare. These clinics will ensure women and their children have access to high-quality healthcare and provide them with the best possible future.

“If we want to improve the communities in South Sudan, we need to focus on taking care of the women and children who live there,” Atem said. “These children are the backbone of South Sudan’s future. They are our future leaders. SSHCO is the frontline of defense against diseases in Maar, and we are working toward making prenatal and maternal care more accessible to better serve the women in the community.”

By: William Janey

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