In South Sudan, 125 women and girls were raped over a 10-day period in a horrifying attack that left aid workers speechless according to Doctors Without Borders.
According to reports, assailants whipped, clubbed and sexually assaulted the victims after they walked to a food distribution center, the relief organization said.
The attacks occurred between Nov. 19 and Thursday.
A midwife with the group who treated some survivors said those who were targeted included pregnant and elderly women and girls as young as 10.
“What is happening since last week is indescribable. I haven’t got words for it,” Ruth Okello said.
She said the women also were robbed of clothing and shoes, and their ration cards for food distribution were seized and destroyed.
Sexual violence became widespread during the civil war in South Sudan.
Despite a recent peace deal, aid workers have warned of higher rates of sexual assault as growing numbers of desperate people try to reach aid.
The United Nations mission chief in the country, David Shearer, said the “abhorrent” attacks were carried out by young men in military uniforms and civilian clothing.
The international agency has increased patrols in the area and has begun an investigation while urging the authorities to hold the attackers accountable.
The government of South Sudan was not immediately available to comment. But the state minister for information in Northern Liech State, where the attacks were reported, disputed the reports.
“A rape of such a magnitude is not true,” the minister, Lam Tungwar, told Reuters. He said the state “respects human rights, and women’s rights top our list.”
The international body charged with monitoring the peace deal’s implementation said on Saturday that it had opened an investigation into the reports.
The United Nation’s World Food Program said distribution was underway in Bentiu South Sudan for displaced people, and it was looking into whether it could move distribution sites closer to communities in the area.
A panel of experts monitoring sanctions on South Sudan for the United Nations said in a new report that they remained “extremely concerned” about the high level of conflict-related sexual violence, despite the peace deal signed in September.
Sources: www.nytimes.com and www.associatedpress.com