New Fighting in South Sudan 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.

 New Fighting in South Sudan Hampers Efforts to Help Children, says UNICEF

NEW YORK (March 3, 2014) – 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 Programs. “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 ceasefire signed 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. Some 30,000 or more civilians may be newly 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. More than 3.7 million people are 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 particularly devastating effects of the conflict on children. 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 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 clean 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 psychological support where possible. UNICEF is also providing basic education  in areas where there are large groups of displaced families, a vital step for children whose lives have been so traumatically disrupted.

UNICEF has appealed for $75 million to meet the needs of South Sudan’s displaced population during the first six months of 2014. An urgent response is needed so that supplies can be prepositioned ahead of the rainy season when many of the roads in the country will become impassable.

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About UNICEF The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 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 more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.  

For additional information, please contact:

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