UNITED NATIONS, -- The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has expressed concern at a reported increase in cases of sexual violence in South Sudan and has called for stronger support for women and girls to protect their safety, health and rights.

As fighting continued in South Sudan, women and girls faced increased risks of sexual violence, including being attacked while they sought firewood and food, Farhan Haq, the deputy UN spokesman told the media here Monday.

Also, they resorted to desperate measures, such as survival sex, to feed themselves and their families, Haq said.

Sexual violence and rape were plaguing Juba, the capital of South Sudan, following the latest outbreak of violence, with at least 120 cases reported since fighting restarted on July 7, the United Nations said late last month.

The UNFPA was working to scale up efforts to meet the immediate needs of survivors, including post-rape care, and to reduce the risk of sexual violence.

The UNFPA estimated that 300,000 people in Juba required life-saving services within the next three months for sexual and reproductive health, including safe birth, and to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

Urgent action was needed to protect the health of mothers and newborns, given that 3,000 births were expected in Juba in the next three months, the UN agency said.

In addition, about 600 pregnant women were likely to face pregnancy complications which needed comprehensive emergency obstetric care and quality health services to save their lives.

Even before the recent fighting, the situation was dire in South Sudan, which has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world.

As a result of the lack of required infrastructure and capacity, only 11 per cent of births were attended by skilled workers, the UNFPA said, adding that it was working with partners to provide life-saving midwifery services throughout the war-torn country.

Another UNFPA priority was the delivery of much-needed reproductive health supplies and equipment, it said, adding that it was providing a steady supply of emergency reproductive health kits to protect the right to sexual and reproductive health services across the country.

More than 50 service providers have been trained to manage rape and provide psychological first aid to survivors in some 15 facilities nationwide.

The UNFPA plans to expand this life-saving service to 24 health facilities over the next year. The UN agency and its partners were also scaling up community mobilization to encourage sexual violence survivors to seek timely support.

Out of UNFPA's 2016 humanitarian appeal of 13.3 million US dollars to serve 3.9 million people in South Sudan, only 3.9 million USD had been received.

A minimum of 996,000 USD was urgently needed for Juba in the next three months to fund reproductive health supplies, ambulance support, dignity kits with hygiene and safety items, tents for women's safe spaces, and training for medical volunteers, it added.

Source: Name News Network

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