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UN failing to protect South Sudan civilians, report citing Doctors Without Borders says

People in South Sudan's Unity State are being subjected to murder, rape and kidnapping with little protection from the thousands of UN peacekeepers there, the Guardian reports, citing Doctors Without Borders.

'They talk about the most horrendous incidents of sexual violence,' paper quotes MSF director as saying

A displaced woman and her children ride in a wooden canoe through a swamp, where the thick reed marshes protect against attacks, as they flee from Kok Island in Leer county to Nyal in Panyijar county, in Unity State, South Sudan. (Jason Patinkin/Associated Press)

People in South Sudan's Unity State are being subjected to murder, rape and kidnapping with little protection from the thousands of UN peacekeepers there, the Guardian reports, citing Doctors Without Borders.

The United Nations mission to South Sudan hasn't offered any protection to civilians in the state, with thousands of people fleeing north to protection sites in the town of Bentiu, the Guardian quoted Pete Buth, deputy operations director of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Holland, as saying.

MSF is the French name of Doctors Without Borders. Unity is an oil-producing area and a key battleground in the country's civil war that began in December 2013.

People who flee to protection sites in Bentiu have been telling their stories.

People displaced by fighting between government and rebel forces wait for for medical care at a clinic run by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in the town of Awerial, South Sudan. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

"It's not like this is a secret," Buth said. "They talk about the most horrendous incidents of sexual violence, and I'm sure we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg."

In May, the Guardian said on its website that pro-government forces killed as many as 129 children in the state over three weeks.

"Survivors said boys were castrated and left to bleed to death, girls as young as eight were gang raped and others were thrown alive into burning buildings," it reported.

A spokeswoman for the UN mission said it shared concerns about what's happening to civilians, but she stressed that protecting civilians "is primarily the responsibility of the host government," the Guardian reported.

18 projects

She rejected MSF's characterization of the mission's work as "a complete and utter protection failure."

MSF operates 18 health-care projects in South Sudan, including in Bentiu.

"The humanitarian situation has continued to worsen," MSF says on its website.

"In southern Unity, the most urgent humanitarian needs are food assistance and nutrition support. In November and December, MSF mobile clinics to Leer and Mayendit counties (with an approximate population of 35,000) encountered high levels of malnutrition."

MSF has been forced out of the area twice in 2015, most recently after its compound was looted in October. The organization have since returned there.

Later Tuesday, the UN Security Council approved the deployment of a further 1,100 peacekeepers to South Sudan, notwithstanding concerns from Russia and Venezuela over the threat of sanctions and the possible use of spy drones by the UN mission.

The 15-member council extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan until July 31, 2016. It adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution with 13 votes in favor, while Russia and Venezuela abstained.

The resolution also urged the United Nations to deploy surveillance drones and threatens sanctions on anyone threatening the peace, security and stability of South Sudan.

"We consider the wording formulated as an ultimatum regarding sanctions on South Sudan to be counterproductive," said Russia's deputy UN ambassador, Petr Iliichev, who also raised doubts about the value of peacekeepers using spy drones.

Bentiu, South Sudan (Google)

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