News, Photos & Video › IRC begins emergency assistance for women and girls fleeing into South Sudan
IRC begins emergency assistance for women and girls fleeing into South Sudan
The IRC is working to improve safety for women and girls and minimize the risks they face.
(Photo: Liz Pender/IRC)
(Photo: Liz Pender/IRC)
YIDA, South Sudan - The International Rescue Committee is launching emergency health and protection programs for vulnerable women and girls who have fled to South Sudan to escape flaring violence across the border in Sudan’s Nuba Mountain region.
Clashes between Sudan’s army and ethnic-Nuban rebels have been simmering for a year, but escalated in recent months. Aerial bombardments, ground assaults and sexual violence have forced more than 300,000 civilians from their homes.
Most of the displaced people are hiding out in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, cut off from humanitarian aid as the Khartoum government continues to bar relief groups from the region.
Some 28,000 others have braved the dangerous cross-border journey into South Sudan – settling in the Yida refugee camp, just 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the border of Sudan and 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) from the frontline.
“These people have been under siege and living in terror,” says Bob Kitchen, who is leading the IRC’s emergency response in Yida. “Women and girls, in particular, are being targeted.”
The IRC’s Emergency Response Team just completed an assessment of women and girls who fled to Yida and identified pressing needs for survivors of sexual assault, as well as critical reproductive health and protection concerns at the camp.
Participants in the survey told IRC experts that significant numbers of Nuban women and girls were raped while fleeing the Nuba Mountains and crossing into South Sudan.
“Women and girls described attacks in front of family members, by multiple perpetrators and for prolonged periods of time,” says Kitchen.
The assessment also found that women and girls continue to suffer rape in and around the refugee camp, with sexual assaults reportedly occurring while they collect firewood or seek discreet places to go to the bathroom. And participants also stressed worsening violence by spouses and partners since arriving at Yida.
The IRC begins construction this week of a Women and Girl’s Wellness Center in Yida camp where survivors of sexual assualt and domestic violence can receive specialized medical treatment, counseling and other needed assistance.
The center will also expand and enhance reproductive health services at the camp to include basic delivery care, pre and post natal support and health education and provide a safe space for women and girls to report abuse.
Services will be carried out by a team of doctors, nurses, midwives, health educators and counselors. The IRC, working in South Sudan for more than 20 years, will also join with other organizations, camp managers and the refugee community to improve safety for women and girls and minimize the risks they face.
The worsening crisis in South Kordofan coincides with increased tension between newly independent South Sudan and Sudan over border demarcation, oil exports and other thorny and unresolved issues relating to South Sudan’s secession.