Access to health for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in South Sudan

Authored by: United Nations Mission in South Sudan and United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Categories: Global Public Health, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: COVID-19, National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Sexual and Reproductive Health
Country: South Sudan
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2020
Citation: “Access to Health for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in South Sudan.” United Nations Mission in South Sudan and United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, May 2020.

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Executive Summary

Survivors of conflict-related sexual violence continue to struggle to access adequate medical and mental health care, according to a new report issued by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and the UN Human Rights Office. The report takes an in-depth look at the adequacy of health care available in Unity and the Central and Western Equatorian regions, which account for 85 percent of conflict-related sexual violence cases documented between January 2018 and January 2020.

It found that funding for public health care in South Sudan has not been prioritized, with just 1.2 percent (USD 14 million) of the national budget allocated for this purpose. This has resulted in international organizations using donor funding to try to fill the gap. Despite the enormous financial investment, the medical response for survivors of sexual violence remains weak. The report found that there is, on average, only one health facility per 10,000 people and an estimated 72 percent of the population live more than 5 km away from their closest clinic. Many of these facilities are not capable of providing specialized care and there are not enough qualified doctors, nurses or midwives to treat sexual violence survivors. These factors have resulted in many victims not seeking assistance until they develop complications, such as sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, and problems from unsafe abortions. Stigmatization, coupled with the risk of being labelled a sexual violence survivor if they seek health care, has also forced many to suffer in silence.

The report documents 356 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, that took place between January 2018 and January 2020. These incidents involved at least 1423 victims, including 302 children. Those responsible for the violence included government and opposition forces, as well as youth militia used by the parties to the conflict. Sexual violence has been endemic and used as a weapon of war in South Sudan since armed conflict erupted in 2013. There has been a significant decrease since the signing of a peace deal in 2018. However, it remains a serious problem with victims continuing to suffer appalling acts of sexual violence that often result in long-term physical harm and mental health consequences.