UN says South Sudan conflict includes child kidnappings, rapes and causes humanitarian crisis

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JUBA, South Sudan — The United Nations mission to South Sudan has received credible reports of kidnappings of boys as young as 10 and the rape and abduction of girls and women amid killings in a northern region that the U.N. and aid agencies had to abandon because of the danger.

The fighting in Unity state between government troops and rebels brought the International Rescue Committee to announce Tuesday that it has withdrawn from the area, leaving 35,000 displaced South Sudanese without the food, water and health care that it provided.

The violence has forced the U.N. and other aid agencies to withdraw staff.

Numerous towns and villages in Guit and Koch counties in Unity state have been reportedly burned amid killings there, the U.N. mission said late Monday.

It is not clear who committed such atrocities, said the U.N. mission which emphasized that the government and all parties must ensure that all civilians are protected and that combatants are controlled so they don't target civilians.

Some 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes in the region, said the U.N.

South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, descended into conflict in mid-December 2013 when troops loyal to former vice president Riek Machar clashed with those loyal to President Salva Kiir. The fighting followed months of political tension between the two leaders.

As the humanitarian situation worsens in the world's newest country, relief organizations worry that a bill passed by parliament on Tuesday could restrict their work. The measure, which passed unanimously, would require international aid agencies, civic organizations and volunteer groups to employ South Sudanese in 80 percent of staff positions. Aid groups say they struggle to find qualified local staff in a country with only a 27 percent adult literacy rate.

"We are deeply concerned that this bill may make it more difficult for NGOs to do our work," said Zlatko Gegic, country director for Oxfam South Sudan.

South Sudan's government says the non-governmental organizations need to be regulated. The bill goes to South Sudan's President Salva Kiir to be signed into law.

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