New fighting hampers efforts to help children, says UNICEF
With fresh outbreaks of fighting in South Sudan likely to displace tens of thousands of additional people, UNICEF said today the emergency in the world’s newest nation risks becoming overwhelming. Nearly 900,000 people – half of them children – have already been forced from their homes in South Sudan.
“We are working to stave off disaster,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes, “People are continuing to flee their homes in the face of fierce fighting and terrible violence. South Sudan’s dream risks becoming a nightmare for the country's children.”
Despite the signing of an agreement to cease hostilities at the end of January, fighting between Government and opposition forces has increased in recent weeks. Following heavy clashes and reports of people being killed in churches and hospitals in the northern town of Malakal in February, fighting has spread further north in Upper Nile state. There are now fears that 30,000 or more civilians may be freshly displaced.
“Already there are hundreds of thousands of women, children and men with limited access to safe drinking water, sanitation, nutrition and shelter,” said UNICEF’s Chaiban. “Under such conditions, children are especially vulnerable to disease outbreaks and severe food insecurity.”
The continued violence in South Sudan has massively disrupted livelihoods as families and livestock have been displaced, households looted and markets destroyed, with regular aid interrupted, putting more than 3.7 million people at risk of severe food insecurity as well as disease outbreaks and acute malnutrition.
There are widespread reports of grave violations of humanitarian law, with the effects of the conflict on children particularly devastating. Over the past two months, girls and boys have been killed, maimed, raped, orphaned, recruited into armed groups, and made homeless.
"UNICEF staff have personally witnessed the aftermath of atrocities," said Chaiban. “There can be no excuse or justification for this violence. Children and civilians should be protected under international law, but as the violence continues, we see further outrages.
“Political dialogue is the only solution to the crisis” added UNICEF’s Chaiban. “With the rains coming, we are in a race against time. Fighting needs to stop and financial support to the response must be accelerated so that humanitarian agencies, including UNICEF, can access children in need, pre-position supplies and strengthen services ahead of the rains.”
UNICEF is taking advantage of periods of relative stability to reach the displaced in different parts of the country with fresh water and sanitation as well as health and nutrition services. UNICEF and partners are tracing children who have become separated from their families and providing psychosocial support where possible. UNICEF is also making provisions in areas where there are large groups of displaced families for basic education facilities, a vital step for children whose lives have been so traumatically disrupted.
UNICEF has appealed for US$75million to meet the needs of South Sudan’s displaced during the first six months of 2014, with an urgent response needed so that supplies can be pre-positioned ahead of the rainy season that will make many of the roads in the country impassable.
Notes to editors:
For further information please contact Claire Blackburn, UNICEF UK Press Office 0207 375 6261 // firstname.lastname@example.org
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