Hundreds of Thousands of Children in Grave Danger in South Sudan, says UNICEF

May 19, 2014

Malnutrition, cholera and conflict stalk youngest citizens of newest nation

NEW YORK (May 19, 2014) – On the eve of the Oslo Humanitarian Pledging Conference, UNICEF warned that hundreds of thousands of children in South Sudan’s three most conflict-affected states are at imminent risk of death and disease, including from cholera.

The United Nations Secretary General has said that by the end of this year, half of South Sudan’s 12 million people will be either in flight, facing starvation, or dead.  At least half of these are children, the most innocent victims in what is increasingly becoming a children’s emergency.  Children and women constitute the majority of those fleeing to neighboring countries.

“The dream of a safe and peaceful South Sudan is becoming a living nightmare for its children,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt.  “Right now, the children of South Sudan need humanitarian assistance; they need their leaders to protect their lives, their rights, and their futures; and they need the world to listen—and demand action on their behalf.” 

Already, around 80 percent of children under of the age of five in the three most conflict-affected states—Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity—are at heightened risk of disease and death. 

Despite 80,000 people having been fully vaccinated against cholera, the Ministry of Health has confirmed a cholera outbreak in Juba.  The cholera caseload is doubling every day, providing troubling proof that the deadly disease is spreading.  UNICEF has helped set up a cholera treatment center, is supplying tents for triage and patient care, hygiene equipment, clean water and oral rehydration solutions.  Over the past 24 hours, hundreds of people have been trained to inform and mobilize communities.

Across the country, as many as 50,000 children could die from malnutrition; 740,000 children under the age of five are at high risk of food insecurity.  Many are already resorting to eating wild foods such as bulbs and grasses.

More than half a million children have fled the violence. Women and girls are increasingly sexually assaulted and the targets of gender-based violence.  Schools and hospitals have been attacked or used by parties to conflict. More than 9,000 children have been recruited into armed forces by both sides.  Thousands of children are separated from their families, within South Sudan and in neighboring countries.

Although tireless efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance continue, without an all-inclusive political solution and a broader peace-building framework for promoting social cohesion, the crisis will deteriorate further, with profound consequences and impact on the most vulnerable, especially children.

UNICEF repeats its call for all parties to provide unhindered and safe access for humanitarian assistance; and to respect their own agreements to stop the violence against children, sexual and gender-based violence, and the recruitment of children.

UNICEF requires $111 million in 2014 to respond to the needs of children and women affected by the current crisis. UNICEF’s 2014 funding requirements have increased significantly since the beginning of the year due to the deteriorating situation in South Sudan. Without additional funding, UNICEF will not be able to continue with critical humanitarian programs to meet the need of women and children affected by this crisis.

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About UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood.

For additional information, please contact:

Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, smasur@unicefusa.org