South Sudan: UNICEF Responds to Help Children at Risk

January 3, 2014

By

Elizabeth M. Kiem

In South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, hundreds of thousands of children are at risk.

Violent clashes between the government and rebel factions began in mid-December in the capital, Juba, and have spread throughout the country. An estimated 194,000 people are displaced from their homes.

There are hopes for a cease-fire, with talks planned between the government and armed groups, but in the meantime, there is intense fighting in many parts of the two-year-old country.

A Refuge for Children and Families

United Nations peacekeeping bases are sheltering about 57,500 people, but they are not equipped to provide the humanitarian services needed for the number of displaced. Severe shortages of food and water and a lack of sanitation facilities pose dangers, especially for children. Thousands of families have crossed into Sudan, Kenya and Uganda to find safety, food and shelter.

In the UN compound in Juba, UNICEF and its partners are constructing latrines and tents and delivering water supplies  as well as providing emergency medical and nutritional attention for children. UNICEF protection specialists are making registration of the displaced a priority to help reunite children who have been separated from their families.

Security is also a concern for the peacekeepers and shelter-seekers. The UN has stepped up defense preparations in the compound in response to threats of an open attack by armed groups.

UNICEF has called for all parties to respect the rights of children, including those that may have already been conscripted by militant factions.

Anticipating a Breakdown in Public Services

To respond to the most immediate needs of innocent civilians, aid agencies require more than $200 million, of which just $43 million has been secured.All told, some 4.5 million people may be affected by a breakdown in social services if the crisis is prolonged or if fighting escalates.

UNICEF and its partners are already anticipating longer-term services and resources to counter the effects of lost livelihoods and to respond to any public health crisis that may arise due to the conflict.

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