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Red Cross demands access to wounded people in South Sudan town

by Julius Gale

JUBA — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday expressed concern about the fate of people wounded in the fighting around Waat, in South Sudan’s Bieh state, and requested all sides to allow the wounded access to health care.

The ICRC in a statement issued in Juba reminded all sides involved in the hostilities to respect and protect those not taking part in the fighting, including wounded combatants.

“The ICRC has been able to evacuate several wounded combatants so far and we stand ready to do it again. We are discussing with all sides to the conflict to ensure that the wounded have access to the medical assistance they are entitled to,” ICRC’s head of delegation in South Sudan, Francois Stamm said.

Fresh clashes erupted early this week between government forces and rebels loyal to the country’s former deputy president Riek Machar known as SPLA-IO, which left over 90 killed and dozens injured, according to the South Sudan army (SPLA).

SPLA spokesman Lul Ruai Koang blamed opposition fighters for obstructing evacuation efforts by the ICRC on Wednesday, alleging that rebel fighters fired shells at the airstrip as the ICRC team tried to evacuate their wounded soldiers.

Lam Paul Gabriel, Deputy Spokesman of the rebels denied all the accusations, saying that the government is trying to restrict the ICRC to only rescue wounded government soldiers and leave out the rebels.

“Fighting is still ongoing and we are in full control of the airstrip. But the government is putting the ICRC under huge pressure not to assist our fighters, which is not acceptable,” Gabriel told Xinhua by phone.

Photo taken on Sept. 22, 2017 shows the Kalma internally displaced person (IDP) camp where clashes between government forces and IDPs occurred in South Darfur, Sudan, on Sept. 22, 2017.(Xinhua/Mohamed Khidir)

The Red Cross said since the beginning of 2017, they have evacuated more than 590 people wounded in fighting and other situations of violence across South Sudan, and it has treated a total of 1,046 people affected by the conflict.

“We remind all parties involved in the fighting about their obligation to allow the war wounded prompt access to medical assistance,” Stamm said.

“There are rules in war and it is crucial that international humanitarian law (IHL) be respected and that those affected by the fighting are protected,” he added.

South Sudan has been embroiled in more than three years of conflict that has have taken a devastating toll on the people of South Sudan.

A peace pact signed in Addis Ababa in 2015 under intense international pressure was shattered again following renewed violence between rival government and opposition troops in the capital Juba in July 2016.

The conflict has since spread to other regions which enjoyed relative peace, causing mass displacement of least 4 million people from their homes, ethnic polarization and tribal violence that has killed tens of thousands of people.

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