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Report from Trócaire’s Head of Humanitarian, Noreen Gumbo, South Sudan
On Wednesday 25th November, I set out from Juba to Yirol with colleagues from our joint CAFOD and Trócaire Office in South Sudan. The purpose of the trip was to launch a new humanitarian project supporting the needs of people who have been displaced as a result of ongoing conflict.
We travelled first by UN helicopter from Juba to Minkemon and from there we proceeded onwards by road to Yirol. Although just a distance of 130km away, it took 5 hours on a bumpy road.
The territory between Minkemon and Yirol seemed very sparsely populated, we saw some cattle herding communities but vast stretches of land were empty, just searing heat of 36 degrees.
En route I read a new report from the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan.
The report detailed the abuses on civilian populations and particularly women, since conflict broke out again in December 2013.
It exposes extreme depths of cruelty against civilians and particularly women with widespread evidence of sexual and gender based violence (GBV).
It is unflinching in its detail, highlighting “mutilation and burning of bodies [and of] people being beaten then forced to jump into fires, draining human blood from people who had just been killed, and forcing others from one ethnic community to drink blood or eat burnt human flesh”.
You can therefore imagine my surprise when on arriving into Yirol we met a large group of women marching through the town, dressed in traditional attire, highly ornamented, with painted faces, chanting messages and holding banners denouncing violence against women!
It was a moment of joy… knowing the depths of suffering that women and girls in South Sudan have endured, to witness this statement from women, that violence against women is not acceptable and that despite the militarisation of their environment, the constant threats they face, women will stand up and denounce GBV and cling to hope of a peaceful society in which women and girls are protected.