Gender-based Violence: UNFPA Rings Alarm over more than One Million Displaced Women, Girls in South Sudan

Akanimo Sampson

Akanimo Sampson

Women and girls are more than one million of the two million people currently displaced within South Sudan. Latest information filtering out of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says they are at high risk of gender-based violence and forced and child marriage.

Many parents turn to child and forced marriage as a safeguard from grinding poverty, especially during a crisis and when they can’t afford to send young girls to school: UNICEF estimates that half of all girls in South Sudan are married before the age of 18.

Thirty eight years old Nyachar Gatneay Rial, told UNFPA, “I used to collect firewood, make charcoal, and sell fresh milk to help meet our family’s needs. Now I have to sell tea in the local market to earn some money.”

Ms. Rial’s family are among some 220,000 people whose homes and livelihoods were demolished by floods in South Sudan’s Unity State in July 2020, and who have spent years on the move in search of refuge in camps for internally displaced populations.

The flooding laid waste to crops and homes, leaving thousands of already impoverished families without any shelter or way of earning a living.

The ongoing conflict and growing insecurity in South Sudan expose women and girls to ever greater risks of gender-based and sexual violence.

Diang Juoy Tutchar, 39, is a widow and mother of five children. She said, “We know the firewood collection areas are unsafe because of the threat of violence. There are also wild animals like snakes and crocodiles, so it is especially dangerous when we have to cross a flooded field to get wood.”

An estimated 2.6 million people in South Sudan are at risk of gender-based violence in 2022, a staggering 25 per cent increase on 2021 estimates.

Nearly 40 per cent of women and girls reported having to avoid essential public places like water points, washrooms and markets, as well as firewood collection sites, out of fear of being attacked, raped or sexually exploited.

Ms. Rial hasn’t had a stable place she could call home for the past decade. Along with her husband and four children, she has been forced to move around conflict-ridden Unity State to escape violence, floods and drought, in a constant search for safety and security.

More than 228,000 gender-based violence survivors were also supported through medical care, psychosocial support and legal assistance.

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