Children bathe in a lake formed by excavation pits in the Protection of Civilians site in Bentiu, South Sudan
JUBA/ HONG KONG, 8 July 2017 – Ahead of the sixth anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, the hopes and dreams for the children of this fledgling nation have not materialised, UNICEF said today. Calling the situation in South Sudan, a catastrophe for children, the UN Children’s Fund said children continue to bear the brunt of conflict and collapsing essential services.
“Millions of children in South Sudan are suffering unthinkable hardships and setbacks in their education, nutrition, health and their rights,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan, one day before South Sudan’s Independence Day on 9 July. “More than two million children have fled their homes to escape vicious fighting; and last month the one millionth child became a refugee. More than two thousand children have been killed or injured, and many more have witnessed horrific violence. The numbers are staggering and yet each represents the ongoing misery of a child.”
In nearly all aspects of their lives children are being denied a childhood in South Sudan.
Some 2.2 million children in South Sudan are not in school. The country has the highest proportion of out of school children in the world, with more than 70% of children not receiving an education. More than one third of all schools have been attacked by armed groups.
An Integrated Food Security Phase Classification issued last month warned that six million people – more than half the population – are severely food insecure. An estimated 1.1 million children are acutely malnourished with 290,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition, which leaves them nine times more likely to die than a well-nourished child.
The near collapse of the health and water and sanitation systems in South Sudan has exposed children to deadly viruses including measles and waterborne diseases such as cholera. The current cholera outbreak in South Sudan is the longest and most widespread in the country’s history. More than 10,000 cases have been reported since the onset of the outbreak one year ago, with children making up 51 per cent of all cholera cases.
And at least 2,500 children have been killed or injured since the conflict first erupted in December 2013 with 254 incidents of rape and sexual assault against children having been reported. More than 17,000 children are in the ranks of armed forces and armed groups in South Sudan, with recruitment ongoing.
Amid these overwhelmingly difficult circumstances for the most vulnerable citizens of South Sudan, in 2017 UNICEF and partners have:
• provided treatment services to more than 293,000 children under 5 years of age for malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and other life-threatening conditions; and treated more than 5,000 cholera cases;
• provided 500,000 people with safe drinking water and a further 200,000 people with access to sanitation facilities;
• completed 26 UNICEF/WFP rapid response missions, reaching more than 530,000 people with life saving support, including over 100,000 children under 5;
• treated more than 80,000 children for severe acute malnutrition;
• provided 184,000 children with access to education
• and reunited 434 children (235 girls and 199 boys) with their families; provided 1,538 children (1,254 boys and 284 girls) formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups and vulnerable children with social economic reintegration services
“A country’s independence day should be celebrated,” said UNICEF’s Mdoe. “However, today in South Sudan, there will be no celebration for the millions of children caught up in this conflict. While UNICEF continues to increase our emergency response to reach those most in need, we reiterate what we have said time and again: humanitarian actors need full and safe access; and the children of South Sudan need peace.”