February 27, 2014 (NEW YORK) – The top UN official in South Sudan has described scenes in Malakal as “shocking”, as further reports emerged of looting at medical facilities in the Upper Nile state capital.
- Women carry the body of a civilian killed in the centre of Upper Nile state capital Malakal on 21 January 2014 (Photo: AP/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin)
UN Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer, who was visiting Malakal on Wednesday, posted a series of harrowing Tweets from the town, which has been the scene of heavy fighting between pro-government troops and rebel forces.
“#Malakal looks & feels deserted. Besides the occasional armed man wandering through town, there are corpses, flies & vultures to be seen,” he said in a Tweet posted on his account.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which has been conducting patrols in various sites across the town, said patients had reported witnessing opposition forces looting the Malakal Teaching Hospital.
PATIENTS SHOT IN THEIR BEDS
The reports came as medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Wednesday it appeared patients at the hospital appeared to have been murdered as they lay in their beds.
MSF said the facility had also been ransacked and burned, including a specialised ward used to treat malnourished children.
Lanzer has spoken of his shock at seeing the aftermath of fighting at the hospital, describing it as an “empty, silent shell”.
“Shocking scenes at #Malakal Teaching Hospital: nothing left except the deceased and a loyal dog protecting the remains of his owner,” he Tweeted.
According to Martin Nesirky, the spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, a further 100 patients and civilians from the hospital were transferred to the UNMISS protection site in Malakal for medical treatment.
UNMISS patrols also visited displaced civilians sheltering in a church in Malakal town, who have also been left without access to medical services.
“The mission will give the people seeking refuge in the church the option of moving to its base so they can be better protected and receive medical treatment,” Nesirky said in a statement from New York on Wednesday.
Nesirky said UNMISS staff had observed forces arriving on Tuesday east and south of the mission’s compound in Malakal, which is currently providing refuge to come 22,000 civilians, who fled their homes after violence erupted.
Meanwhile, Lanzer has also expressed his concern at reports that up to 10,000 civilians, who fled violence in Jonglei state capital or and were attempting to cross to Minkaman in Lakes state, remain stranded on islands in the River Nile.
It’s estimated that more than 80,000 displaced people have arrived in Minkaman, dwarfing the local population of about 60,000.
The influx is continuing, according to Lanzer, who said that some 1,200 people are leaving Jonglei to make the crossing each day.
Lanzer, who was visiting Bor on Thursday, said while some stall holders and markets had reopened for business, the town remained a virtual ghost town with neighbourhoods emptied and widespread destruction.
He said the remaining 5,000 displaced civilians still sheltering at the UNMISS base told him they didn’t feel safe enough to leave.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that nearly 900,000 people have been driven from their homes in South Sudan since conflict erupted in the capital, Juba, on 15 December before spreading throughout the country.
Those displaced include some 710,000 people who remain inside the country and 171,000 who have fled to neighbouring countries.
UNMISS said it is currently providing protection to some 43,000 civilians in Juba, with more than 75,000 overall seeking shelter at multiple UN sites across the country.