Rebels and government forces in South Sudan use children as young as 12 to fight an increasingly brutal civil war.
South Sudan refugees residing in a UN camp are living in knee-deep, sewage-contaminated floodwater, forcing some families to sleep standing up so they can hold their children out of the water, an international aid group has said.
Doctors Without Borders said on Friday the conditions in the camp in Bentiu are “an affront to human dignity”, and demanded that dry land within the camp be immediately made available for living space.
The residents, most of whom fled fighting between rebels who support opposition leader Riek Machar and government forces since last December, cannot leave the camp because of fear that they could be killed outside.
The UN is housing nearly 100,000 people in South Sudan in bases that were not intended to house internally displaced persons.
Ethnically targeted violence broke out last December between supporters of Machar and the military, forcing more than one million people to flee their homes.
Human Rights Watch on Friday released a report documenting the killings of thousands of civilians since the conflict began in what the group called “extraordinary acts of cruelty that amount to war crimes”.
The group called on the UN to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan and place targeted sanctions on individuals “responsible for serious violations of international law”.
No end in sight
Despite international pressure to end the violence, there is no end in sight to the conflict. Representatives of the government and rebels met for a fifth time in Ethiopia earlier this week for peace talks, but the rebels did not show up on the second day of talks, according to the regional bloc IGAD.
South Sudan Information Minister Michael Lueth said in a statement that the peace talks were doomed by “the fact that the opposition has wavered in their commitment”.
President Salva Kiir, who was in Washington this week as part of the US-Africa summit, told reporters while standing alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry that Machar is not in full control of the opposition fighters.
Kiir said he wants peace soon.
“I will be happy because the people who are dying on both sides are my people,” Kiir said. “I am an elected president, and the people who elected me were not from my tribe. I was elected by all the people of South Sudan. So other people die in support of Riek Machar or in my support, these are all my people.”
Experts have warned that a famine will hit the country because the violence did not allow residents to plant crops.