The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) said on Thursday it is unable to locate some 20,000 people believed to have fled fighting in the north of the war-ravaged country.
The lack of information about South Sudanese recently displaced from Wau Shilluk, a town on the west bank of the Nile River, is “very frustrating”, said Unmiss head David Shearer.
“We want to find out what has happened to those people,” he said, “and provide them with assistance if they need it”.
UN troops tried to carry out a foot patrol to Wau Shilluk on Thursday but were blocked by government soldiers, Unmiss reported.
Fighting between opposition forces and government troops has spread across the west bank during the past week, and shows no sign of abating, Unmiss said.
“Shocking devastation” and “harrowing human rights violations” have occurred in nearby Malakal, a UN assistant secretary-general said on Friday.
Speaking at the end of a four-day visit to South Sudan, UN human rights chief Andrew Gilmour deplored reported gang rapes of women who try to walk to the market in Malakal from a UN civilian protection site outside the town.
Government soldiers and militia members frequently attack women who venture out of the protection site, Mr Gilmour said on the basis of testimony from numerous victims.
“It is utterly abhorrent that women in this area have to choose between getting raped or getting a livelihood”, Mr Gilmour said. “But this is the brutal reality of what South Sudan has become”.
The division commander of government forces in the area denied that rapes had been committed, Unmiss noted.