KOCH COUNTY, 30 September 2015
Jason Patinkin
Reporter and regular IRIN contributor who has covered South Sudan's civil war since December 2013

A month after President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal aimed at ending South Sudan's two-year civil war, there is still intermittent fighting in some of the nation's most far-flung and violent places.

Koch County in divided Unity State was the epicentre of a devastating government offensive launched in late April. The United Nations said government troops and their allies killed and raped civilians, burned villages, and stole cattle during that campaign, forcing tens of thousands to flee to a peacekeeping base in the north of Unity State for safety.
 
Last week, aid groups and journalists visited Koch County for the first time since that offensive began to see how those left behind are faring. Representatives from the World Food Programme, UNICEF, and the International Organization for Migration reached the government-controlled town of Koch and the rebel-held village of Bauw.

In both places, people were living under trees because their homes had been destroyed. Attracted by the sound of WFP helicopters, thousands flocked in over the week-long aid operation from their hiding places in the bush to receive food, medicine, and other goods.
 
But the tentative access for aid groups doesn't mean the war is over in Koch County. Leaders on both sides accuse the other of attacks. Civilians say they still hear the sounds of gunfire and don't plan on permanently emerging from their bush hideouts just yet.


Video by Dimple Vijaykumar