South Sudan

Above a million disabled people at risk in South Sudan

HRW urges UN to assist disabled people, who are increasingly becoming vulnerable to violence in South Sudan’s civil war.

The war has left more than 1.7 million refugees, and 1.9 million South Sudanese are internally displaced [Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the United Nations and aid groups to assist more than a million disabled people, who are increasingly becoming vulnerable to violence in South Sudan’s civil war.

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

“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.”

To fulfil their missions, aid organisations should do more to ensure that they are meeting the needs of people with disabilities and older people, HRW said.

UN investigators and rights group have frequently accused both the army and rebels of murder, torture and rape since the civil war began, and say the crimes almost always go unpunished.

"Both sides have committed abuses that may qualify as war crimes and crimes against humanity, including looting, indiscriminate attacks on civilians and the destruction of civilian property, arbitrary arrests and detention, beatings and torture, enforced disappearances, rape and gang rape, extrajudicial executions, and killings," HRW says in its latest report.

An estimated 250,000 people with disabilities live in displacement camps in South Sudan, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

The ongoing conflict has fractured the country along ethnic lines - Kiir is an ethnic Dinka, Machar is a Nuer - and forced a quarter of the country's 12 million population to flee their homes.

The war has left millions of civilians cut off from any aid, HRW says.

READ MORE: Almost four million Sudanese displaced by fighting

Growing refugees

The war has left more than 1.7 million refugees and forced more than two million children to flee their homes.

South Sudan is in the centre of Africa bordered by six countries. It is rich in oil, but after the civil war it is also one of the least developed regions on earth.

One hundred thousand people are starving, and about a million South Sudanese face the risk of famine. Roughly half of the country’s population needs food assistance.

There may be more than 1.2 million people with disabilities in South Sudan. The conditions of fighting and famine in the country have created one of the world's largest humanitarian crises.

South Sudan: More than one million on brink of starvation

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies