During the first two weeks of September, Watchlist conducted field research in northern Uganda with South Sudanese refugees on attacks on medical facilities and personnel and denial of humanitarian access in South Sudan. Interviews were conducted in several refugee settlements throughout northern Uganda, including Bidi Bidi, Imvepi, and Rhino, with current and former health workers, community leaders, and persons who had been unable to access lifesaving health care in South Sudan, due in part to attacks on clinics and hospitals. Many of those interviewed detailed numerous disruptions in health care service provision due to threats, intimidation, and abduction of health workers; occupation or looting of hospitals and clinics by parties to the conflict; and frequent removal, at unofficial checkpoints, of medical supplies from convoys.
These interviews made clear that parties to the conflict, including the army of the Republic of South Sudan—the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)— and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) are targeting medical facilities and personnel and denying humanitarian access as tactics of war. In part, as a result of civilians’ lack of access to health care, South Sudanese have fled en masse to neighboring countries, including to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. As of August 2017, more than one million South Sudanese are residing in Uganda alone. Government and international non-governmental organization-funded medical facilities are struggling to meet refugees’ health needs in host countries, particularly extreme rates of malnutrition among children.
The research will be published in a Field Monitor report in 2018. It will be the third in a series of Watchlist reports focused on the impact on children of attacks on health care. For more information on Watchlist’s research on the issue, please visit: https://watchlist.org/about/report/