Conflict has forced nearly 2 million children out of school in the world's newest country. Recent violence at a UN-run displacement camp has put a renewed spotlight on security risks.
The UN peacekeeping mission said youths from the Shilluk and Dinka ethnic groups — both staying at the site — began fighting on Wednesday night using small arms and machetes.
Since December 2013, the country has been engulfed in a civil war that has killed tens of thousands and turned more than 730,000 South Sudanese into refugees.
After a year and a half of civil war, 3.8 million people in South Sudan are classified as "severely food insecure" — and the situation may have just gotten even worse.
The Wau Shilluk incident is one of the few large forced recruitment operations to be made public, yet unlike large kidnappings elsewhere in Africa, events in South Sudan have prompted little international outcry.
Campaigners are trying a new tack in raising awareness, by highlighting the economic costs of the conflict, rather than the humanitarian ones.
Sources told VICE News that the US will soon circulate a UN Security Council draft resolution that targets leaders on both sides of the conflict in South Sudan.
The weather in South Sudan has dictated the intensity of fighting, and battles are raging now that the rainy season has ended.
Leaders on both sides of the conflict have agreed to lay down arms and form a transitional government within 60 days.
The recruitment of children younger than 15 years is a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions and the International Criminal Court.
A mob of several hundred people assaulted a UN base in the city of Bor on Thursday and opened fire on civilians inside, killing 48.