NEW YORK (July 6, 2021) – Christine Saida, UNICEF South Sudan Child Reporter:
"My name is Christine Saida. I am 17 years old. I have been a UNICEF Child Reporter in South Sudan for two years. The Child Reporters Program in South Sudan was set up by UNICEF to empower children to express their opinions on any matters affecting their lives and those of their peers.
"As we will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of our country at the end of this week, I want to share a few words with you on how we as children live the situation of children in South Sudan. My messages are based on what I have seen around me and on a recent mission I did to Pibor, one of the counties most affected by the crisis our country is going through.
"In our country, children are not being respected. Child rights are not respected here in South Sudan: the right to go to school, the right to eat, the right to protection, the right to security… so many rights that are not being given to us.
"The children in South Sudan are facing many crises, including child abduction, cattle raiding, communal conflict, displacement, violence in the country, gender-based violence. Flooding and violence are making things worse for children, contributing to high levels of malnutrition.
"Most people survive from humanitarian assistance provided by the donors, this is what South Sudan needs the most. Give us our rights as children. Respect our rights as children. Respond to our cry."
Mads Oyen, UNICEF’s chief of field operations in South Sudan:
"While South Sudan is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its independence, the overall situation of children in South Sudan has not really improved in the last ten years, and children in South Sudan remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. This is the key message of a report UNICEF South Sudan is issuing today, called “Respond to our Cry”.
"South Sudan is going through the worst humanitarian crisis since its independence ten years ago, which is affecting most children in the country and is impacting their rights. The crisis is triggered by many factors, including the continued violence and insecurity, the impact of climate change and the flooding.
"8.3 million people - two-thirds of the entire population - need humanitarian assistance. More than half of those affected - 4.5 million - are children. These figures have never been that high since South Sudan obtained independence.
"South Sudan is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world – and the most forgotten. At more than 60 percent, South Sudan has one of the highest percentages of children in need of humanitarian assistance. Ten percent of the children do not reach their fifth birthday in South Sudan. The country is one of the world’s largest humanitarian and refugee crises with 2.2 million South Sudanese refugees and over 1.6 million internally displaced persons.
"The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is a child rights crisis. Two-thirds of children in South Sudan are unable to access even their most basic rights – the right to life, the right to education and the right to a family and protection. Millions of children in South Sudan are denied the right to be a child. In 2021, 1.4 million are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in South Sudan. This is the highest figure since the start of the civil war in 2013. Also, over 300,000 children - the highest figure ever - are expected to suffer from the worst form of malnutrition and are at risk of dying if treatment is not provided.
"To avert anticipated catastrophic levels of food insecurity, reduce levels of malnutrition, save as many lives as possible and ensure children can enjoy their basic rights, UNICEF and partners have scaled up the multisectoral response since the end of 2020, particularly in the counties most affected by the humanitarian crisis. This has had some positive results. Between January and May of this year, 90,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition throughout the country were treated, with a recovery rate of more than 95 percent.
"But the humanitarian situation remains dire in many communities throughout the country. UNICEF is appealing to the donor community not to cut their humanitarian budgets for South Sudan and its children. More than ever, the children in the youngest country in the world need donors to support them so they can enjoy their rights – and just be children.
"In its Humanitarian Action for Children 2021, UNICEF is appealing for $180 million. Only one-third of this appeal is funded at this stage. There is no safety net in South Sudan, so any budget cuts will hit children immediately. That’s our key message: our humanitarian assistance must be maintained at the current level.
A similar amount of the South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan for 2021 is now funded (June 2021).
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