Until recently, women and children have been spared from violent attacks resulting from ethnic clashes.
Ethnic conflicts in the new country of South Sudan have deteriorated with children becoming targets of attacks.
Gai Manyuon Malok, county commissioner for Tonj East in Warrap State, says attacks on children are a new trend. Women and children had been spared in the past.
Recently, raiders struck the county, killing about 100 people, stealing 17,000 head of cattle, and putting 14 children in the hospital.
Angela Cheboriot, acting project manager of a medical organization that works alongside World Vision in Tonj, recalls some of the child survivors the day after the attack.
“There was this innocent boy who carried his little sister’s corpse — singing a lullaby and believing she was only badly injured and would be healed,” she says.
“Their parents had been killed in the attack.”
At Marialou Hospital, 2-year-old Majong Manywer grimaces and groans in his grandmother’s arms. He is being treated for bullet wounds and was heavily bandaged.
His grandmother, Arop Majok, chokes with emotion as she recounts the early morning attack that claimed the lives of the boy’s mother, brother, and sister.
“Why shoot such a toddler, robbing him of a mother’s breast milk at a time when there is no food?” she asks in grief.
Hospital doctor Jimmy Kivumbi says 32 patients were admitted for emergency care following the raid.
“The patients were not only shot, they also had deep cuts inflicted by weapons such as machetes and spears,” he says.
Abraham Machum, a World Vision child protection officer, decries the attacks on children.
“Many of them have no idea why elderly people who are supposed to be protecting them have turned against them — ruthlessly injuring them instead,” he says.
Ongoing conflict, poor harvests, and high food prices have fueled a sharp rise in the number of hungry people in South Sudan, according to the World Food Program and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
They estimate that more than 4 million people are at risk of food shortages this year.
In response, World Vision is scaling up emergency relief efforts, including the delivery of food, provision of health care, and improvement of water and sanitation infrastructure.
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