July 8 2016: Fears for girls as conflict flares on South Sudan’s five year independence anniversary

Plan International Australia’s Director of Programs Dave Husy is the former country director for South Sudan and was in South Sudan on its Independence Day in 2011. He is available for media comment to explain how the situation has deteriorated - via Jane Gardner 03 9672 3691/ 0438 130 905/ jane.gardner@plan.org.au

Children’s rights organisation Plan International Australia is fearful for girls in South Sudan, who face a new wave of sexual violence as conflict flares on the eve of the country’s five-year independence anniversary (July 9).

Considered one of the world’s most dangerous countries, hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese girls have already fled their homes, facing a life of extreme violence, starvation and hardship.  

Plan International Australia’s national office is a leading Australian contributor to aid in South Sudan.

“This is one of the most horrific human rights situations in the world right now,” says Plan International’s Programs Director Dave Husy, who was Plan’s South Sudan Country Director in 2015.

“Our reports indicate the peace process is degrading, with an imminent collapse. Combatant groups have been scaling up their military capacity and all signs are the conflict is escalating again. The risk to girls is from gender-based violence, particularly the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war.”

Girls who become pregnant also face the challenge of surviving childbirth, he says.

“A South Sudanese mother has a one in seven chance of dying in childbirth, compared to seven in 100,000 in Australia. There is one midwife per 40,000 and almost every woman gives birth at home.”

Mr Husy, who was in South Sudan for its independence celebrations in 2011, says the degradation of the situation is ‘enormously disappointing’.

“We were hopeful. The country was emerging out of long conflict and there was a sense of independence and freedom from oppression for the South Sudanese population. Now, the unity has fallen apart and we are seeing even more division than before.

“It’s really difficult to see a future for South Sudan’s children unless there is a serious international intervention to break the cycle of revenge in this ethnic-based conflict. It’s a very fragile situation and more UN intervention needed to get it under control.”

Plan International is working in South Sudan to provide education and food to children directly affected by the conflict and ongoing drought. Its child-friendly safe spaces offer protection vulnerable children, particularly girls displaced by conflict.

  • July 9 marks five years since the besieged country declared independence, conflict ramping up
  • Since conflict reignited in 2013, 2.3 million have fled homes, half are children
  • Girls face extreme sexual violence as a weapon of war as conflict reignites  
  • More than 15,000 children have been recruited to militia and 10,000 children now missing
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder from years of exposure to horrific violence emerging a serious health problem, as parents are unable to care for their children.