(JUBA/ LONDON): A spate of rape cases in South Sudan has exposed the extreme risks girls and women have been left to face in COVID-19, warns child rights and humanitarian organisation Plan International.
Two weeks ago, local media reported an 8-year-old girl was raped by 3 young men in her home in capital Juba. In recent weeks, at least 4 women have also reportedly been gang raped in different parts of the country with fears that the numbers are rapidly increasing.
According to reports, all cases of violence happened in the homes of the young girls and women in a country that is still recovering from its bloody history of Africa’s longest running civil war.
“These horrific acts demonstrate how the pandemic is exposing girls and women to increased risks of violence and abuse, including in the home. This is totally unacceptable, inhuman, and a violation of girls’ and women’s rights,” said George Otim, Plan International’s Country Director in South Sudan.
“The pandemic has exacerbated gender inequalities. Girls and women are finding that they have no one to turn to and now where to go.” For a nation with fragile health and support systems, COVID-19 has dealt a severe blow for girls who have had their education, health, safety and protection severely impacted by the pandemic.
“Those experiencing or at risk of violence may have trouble accessing relevant protection services, due to social isolation measures. The diversion or withdrawal of necessary funding and resources, including those for sexual and reproductive health, mental health and psychosocial support can make the situation extremely dangerous for girls and women,” said Mr Otim.
“Services aimed at positively engaging men and boys should also be prioritised so that they are supported to challenge gender stereotypes and harmful gender norms that drive violence.”
Plan International is also urging the government to prioritise services preventing and responding to violence and declare them as essential services.
“It is critical that adequate funding is provided for protection services across sectors. These include helplines, case management, safe spaces, mental health and psychosocial support, access to justice services, and sexual and reproductive health services,” said Mr Otim.
Plan International is responding to COVID-19 pandemic in more than 50 countries, including South Sudan, with a focus on protecting vulnerable children and communities from the impacts of the pandemic.
Donate to Plan International’s €100 million appeal for COVID-19 and find out more about our response here.
To request an interview or for more information, please contact:
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Mobile: +254 793269706
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About Plan International
Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.
We believe in the power and potential of every child. But this is often suppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination. And it’s girls who are most affected. Working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners, we strive for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children.
We support children’s rights from birth until they reach adulthood. And we enable children to prepare for – and respond to – crises and adversity. We drive changes in practice and policy at local, national and global levels using our reach, experience and knowledge.
We have been building powerful partnerships for children for over 80 years and are now active in more than 75 countries.