In South Sudan, “childhood under attack” as country enters fifth year of fighting

 

In South Sudan, “childhood under attack” as country enters fifth year of fighting

Children bathe in a lake formed by excavation pits in the Protection of Civilians site in Bentiu, South Sudan, Friday 28 April 2017. Some children have drowned swimming in these lakes. Nationwide, only 41% of children have access to safe, clean water.

More than 1.97 million South Sudanese are internally displaced since 15 December 2013, according to UNOCHA figures from May 2017. In South Sudan’s Bentiu Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) seeking shelter continues to increase due to the ongoing food shortage in Unity State, with a head count in May 2017 of 121,267 IDPs. The average water supply is currently at 12.1 litres per person per day, meeting the 7 to 15 litres per person per day Sphere standards. UNICEF continues to expand the Rubkona Surface Water System, which is currently producing 340,000 litres of safe treated water per day, serving over 25,000 individuals in Rubkona town.

© UNICEF/UN068325/Hatcher-Moore

Children bathe in a lake formed by excavation pits in the Protection of Civilians site in Bentiu, South Sudan, Friday 28 April 2017.

JUBA/NAIROBI/HONG KONG, 15 December 2017 – South Sudan is in the throes of a tragedy for children that affects more than half the child population – victims of malnutrition, disease, forced recruitment, violence and the loss of schooling – UNICEF said in a report released today.

Years of insecurity and upheaval have had a “staggering impact on children”, threatening an entire generation, the report, Childhood under Attack, says.

The numbers tell a grim story:
• Almost three million children are severely food insecure;
• more than one million are acutely malnourished;
• 2.4 million have been forced from their homes;
• two million children out of school, and if the current situation persists, only one in 13 children are likely to finish primary school;
• an estimated 900,000 children suffer from psychological distress;
• more than 19,000 children have been recruited in the ranks of armed forces and armed groups;
• and more than 2,300 children have been killed or injured since the conflict first erupted in December 2013, with hundreds of incidents of rape and sexual assault against children having been reported.

“No child should ever experience such horrors and deprivations,” said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF’s Regional Director in Eastern and Southern Africa, “and yet children in South Sudan are facing them on a daily basis. The children of South Sudan urgently require a peaceful and protective environment. Anything less places children and women at even greater risk of grave violations and abuse.”

Getting assistance to those most in need continues to be a challenge in many insecure areas of the country. Humanitarian organisations in South Sudan are looking for the full implementation of a recent Presidential order calling for unrestricted access to those in urgent need of aid.

UNICEF has been delivering lifesaving assistance to children across the country since the crisis started in December 2013, including: treatment of more than 600,000 for severe acute malnutrition, vaccination against measles for more than 3.3 million children, the provision of primary health care services to more than 3.6 million children, and supporting the access to safe water supply for 1.8 million people. This has been done despite the huge challenges faced in a country that ranks among the world’s most dangerous for aid workers. Since the conflict started in 2013, 95 aid workers have been killed, including 25 killed so far this year.

In releasing Childhood under Attack, UNICEF warned that new funding is essential in order to provide critical assistance to children and women. In 2018 UNICEF requires HK$1,427.4 million, and currently has a funding gap of 77 per cent (or $1,099.8 million).