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South Sudanese army arrest three soldiers after mass rapes probe

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The South Sudan Army (SPLA) have arrested three of its troops they suspect having been carrying out mass rape of women and girls in a village some 50 kilometers southeast of the capital Juba in February.

Public outcry erupted last month after it emerged that South Sudanese troops entered Kubi village and raped at least six women and girls.

Military Spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said Friday the SPLA leadership ordered an investigation into allegations of mass rape by the government troops and concluded by arresting three junior officers.

"SPLA is happy to announce the arrest of three SPLA soldiers suspected of involvement in the commission of crimes against civilians at Kubi village last month.

"The suspects would be subjected to legal processes according to SPLA act 2009.

"If they are found guilty, they would be held accountable for their actions," Koang said.

The accusations surfaced less than two weeks after South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said that soldiers who commit acts of rape and sexual assault against civilians will be executed.

The SPLA also denied accusations by the opposition troops that government troops killed some 60 people in northern South Sudan last week.

A UN report released in March 2016 accused both sides in South Sudan for committing atrocities such as torture, murder and rape against the civilian population.

South Sudan has been devastated by civil war that broke out in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

Machar denied the accusation but then mobilized a rebel force.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government in April last year, but was again devastated by fresh violence in July.

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, with over 2 million displaced and another 4.6 million left severely food insecure, since December 2013.


South Sudan, and UN to immunize over three million children against polio

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan and the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday kicked off immunization exercise targeting more than 3 million children against polio amid multiple health challenges and famine.

The campaign is part of efforts to ensure that the country remains polio-free and immunization stays in the forefront of primary health care activities.

"Conflict can have devastating, multi-generational impacts, but by leveraging our partnerships in South Sudan, we are able to continue investing in children’s health, which is a vital investment in the country’s future," Dr Abdulmumini Usman, WHO Representative to South Sudan said in a statement issued in Juba.

Despite multiple humanitarian crises, including famine, the first round of the National Immunization Days of 2017 aims to reach over three million children under 5 with two drops of polio vaccine.

WHO said over 18,000 trained vaccinators will carry out the countrywide campaign using both house-to-house and facility-based services to reach all eligible children nationwide.

"The implementation of vaccination campaigns is a strong opportunity to reach children everywhere in the country with cost-effective, high-impact life-saving interventions and strengthen the systems that deliver these services to the children of South Sudan," Usman said.

South Sudan has remained polio-free for the last seven years, but recent cases in Nigeria and the disruption in routine health services, coupled with low coverage of routine immunization, places the country at risk for importation of the virus.

Insecurity, accessibility and logistical challenges continue in many areas, including in Panyinjar, Leer and Mayendit Counties, where famine was recently declared.

"For the campaign to be effective in these areas, it will be implemented over 10 days to allow for overcoming security and access challenges," said the UN health agency.

To further improve vaccination coverage, special strategies, such as evening vaccination and working with security and rapid response teams with access to insecure, remote areas, will be used, it said.


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