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Patients die as S.Sudan fighting forces medics to flee

10 July 2015, 14:02

Juba - A dozen patients have died and dozens more wounded are without care in a South Sudanese hospital after fighting forced medics to flee, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Friday.

At least 12 patients have died, while at least 40 wounded or sick are in need of help in the hospital at Kodok in the war-torn northern state of Upper Nile, the ICRC said.

The ICRC team of five medics -- who normally provide up to 700 consultations a week -- left after the fighting on July 5 and are now in the capital Juba until security improves.

"The hospital is virtually empty of any qualified personnel to provide quality care at a time when it is most needed," said ICRC aid worker Konrad Bark, who was forced to leave. "The situation has gone from bad to worse."

The hospital was also damaged in the fighting between rebel and government troops.

The deaths are the latest in a long list of atrocities that include girls being gang raped by soldiers then burned alive, boys castrated, and the recruitment of armies of child fighters. Hospitals have been deliberately targeted in the war.

The world's newest nation was thrust into turmoil 18 months ago when President Salva Kiir accused former vice president Riek Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that has split the poverty-stricken country along ethnic and tribal lines.

On Thursday, as the country celebrated its fourth year of independence from Sudan, the United States said that "Kiir and Riek Machar and their cronies are personally responsible for this new war and self-inflicted disaster."

National Security Advisor Susan Rice warned the US and international community would "punish those determined to drive South Sudan into the abyss."

No official death toll has been kept in the conflict.

In November 2014, the International Crisis Group think tank estimated that as many as 50,000 had died, but killing has continued unabated in the meantime, while hunger and disease have added even more to the toll.

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