Civil war is said to be destroying South Sudan, but what we forget is that children are the one who suffer the most, as they often find themselves in situations they cannot come out of. The safety and protection of the children of South Sudan should be an issue for all; this according to humanitarian aid workers there.
Aid workers are reporting that parents are becoming increasingly confused about the severity of the civil war especially as they are increasingly unable to protect their children. The United Nations is warning that food supplies are running low and therefore hundreds of thousands of children are vulnerable to malnutrition as a result of the increasing scarcity of food supplies.
More than 250,000 children in war-torn South Sudan are at risk of “imminent death” because of a very bad and serious malnutrition, a United Nations official said.
Henrietta H Fore, executive director of the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF), issued the stark warning recently after a two-day visit to some of the area’s most affected by the country’s civil war, now in its fifth year.
“It’s serious here in South Sudan,” she told Al Jazeera from South Sudan’s capital city, Juba. “We are very worried and afraid that a quarter of a million children who suffered severe malnutrition during the war are going to be facing death this year before July.”
The war, which broke out in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup, has devastated agricultural production in the East African country, she said.
“The violence has meant that many farmers have run away from their fields,” said Fore. The UNICEF official said most people are afraid to go to their farms and as a result, there is no food in the markets and no food to eat as well.
Calling for emergency action to boost food security, Fore said South Sudan was now heading into the dry season, which means there is just less food and less water for the country’s millions of people. “The acute and severe malnutrition is growing stronger,” she warns.
The conflict, which has resulted in the deaths of millions and the displacement of a quarter of the country’s 12 million population, has also affected more than half of the country’s child population, UNICEF said.
Some 2.4 million children have been forced to abandon their homes since the war broke out. More than 2,300 children have been killed, and 19,000 have been recruited into armed groups. The agency also said it has documented more than 1,200 cases of sexual violence against children.
More than 70 percent of children are not getting an education due to the shortage of schools. UN agencies and aid workers have said that one in three schools have been damaged or closed as a result of the ongoing war.
Despite the catastrophic and dangerous humanitarian crisis, agencies that offer help say the delivery of relief services has been complicated by attacks on humanitarian workers, 28 officials were killed last year alone.
In December, South Sudan’s warring sides signed a ceasefire deal in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, thus agreeing to allow humanitarian aid to get to civilians caught up in the fighting.
But the truce has been repeatedly violated, with both sides blaming each other for the breaches.