Four years after South Sudan achieved independence from Sudan to become the world’s newest nation, the country has been torn apart.
In August, President Obama visited Africa and made brokering peace a central focus of his trip. Yet, today, tens of thousands of desperate civilians are fleeing the country. And according to the United Nations, about 16,000 children have been recruited by government and rebel forces since the war began here in 2013.
An Analysis of Media Coverage (Timeline):
On October 23rd, United Nations agencies reported that 3.9 million people in South Sudan, about one-third of country’s population, are perilously close to starvation due to impact of country’s disruptive civil war on food production and supplies.
On October 29th, the African Union released a highly anticipated report on atrocities committed during this ongoing civil war in South Sudan; horrors including gang rape, civilian massacres and even forced cannibalism. A day later, South Sudan rebels decided to release United Nations peacekeepers they had detained during theft of fuel from their barge.
On November 9th, a New York Times article reported incidents of refugees fleeing to islands in Sudd, a swamp so massive it is visible from space. Additionally, the article reported that the non-profit organization, Doctors Without Borders, which provides medical aid to people worldwide, has been forced to suspend operations after its facilities were looted and staff members threatened.
Most recently; however, an article from the Washington Post highlights the growing child soldier problem in South Sudan. The report says, “They are foot soldiers and cooks and cleaners, boys and girls as young as 9. Many were taken from their homes and schools and forced onto the battlefield….In rare cases when children are released, UNICEF officials say, they have treated boys with bullet wounds and deep psychological scars. Scores of them have lost track of their families.”
The government of South Sudan has a program devoted to the disarmament of children, which was involved in the release in Pibor. But officials see dim prospects for more of such ceremonies, as commanders appear unmoved by their pleas to free the child fighters. Many aid workers and researchers said they worry that if the children are released, they will only be abducted again by a different armed faction.
According to World Vision, a child sponsorship program, more than 3,200 have perished this year, including Aylan, a little Syrian boy whose photo touched hearts around the world. Despite rain and cold, the human tide of refugees is still coming; every day, thousands more attempt sea crossings to reach Europe.