South Sudan soldiers wear UNICEF backpacks meant for children
Humanitarian aid packages are often stolen in South Sudan. Picture: United Nations
UNICEF has reacted angrily after it was revealed that government troops in South Sudan are wearing backpacks meant for children.
The distinctive blue “back to school” backpacks with UNICEF logos were provided by the United Nations children’s agency – but a photograph was taken on January 31 of a group of soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army wearing them alongside their guns.
The backpacks contain school supplies including notebooks and pencils. They are meant to be aids in makeshift classrooms.
UNICEF spokeswoman Sarah Crowe said it had become commonplace for supplies to the strife-torn country to be looted from aid organisations, schools and churches by both sides in the conflict. This has included the theft of vehicles, food stockpiles and medicines.
She added: “Such thefts display a complete disregard for the principle of protection of civilians and respect for humanitarian work.”
Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, called the incident “outrageous and sad“. He added: “We will certainly be pursing this with the government in Juba. This is not the first time this has happened.”
The SPLA at first denied looting any supplies from aid agencies. But Colonel Philip Aguer later told the Sudan Tribune the army would investigate the claims.
You can read more about the problems facing children in South Sudan.