Time running out for the children of South Sudan

After nearly 100 days of conflict in South Sudan and with rain threatening already limited humanitarian access, the situation for South Sudan's youngest is dire, says UNICEF.

Unless the humanitarian situation inside South Sudan improves rapidly and radically for children and families, nearly a million people - mostly women and children - will face an even greater crisis both inside the South Sudan and in neighbouring countries.

UNICEF this week took to the air to distribute aid in remote areas that had previously been inaccessible.

In addition, where it's possible to access displaced communities, UNICEF is distributing water and sanitation kits to families and immunising children against the threat of spreading disease. It's also distributing therapeutic food for malnourished children and registering and supporting unaccompanied children.

However, with seasonal rain about to break, access will soon be further reduced while the longer term threat is that food crops for the coming year will be washed out.

"With annual rains fast approaching the clock is ticking louder and louder towards a humanitarian disaster for children in South Sudan," UNICEF's Deputy Director of Emergency Programs Dr Yasmin Haque said following a recent trip into South Sudan.

"The people I met in Nyal in Unity State sought refuge on small islands surrounded by water," Dr Haque said.

"They had not eaten a decent meal in about 75 days and were barely surviving on palm nuts, wild roots and lily stems and seeds. Some were trying to weave nets to fish.

"Young children were in a desperate state, some had to run for their lives and had been separated from their families in the process. It was very sad to witness," she said.

Already a quarter of a million South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries - Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya - to escape the fighting and seek help. Inside the country more than 700,000 are displaced. The great majority of those in need are children and women.

In the Gambella border region of Ethiopia, very few of the South Sudanese refugees are men and boys.

The onset of rains makes much of the country unreachable by road, in turn making it far harder and far more costly to get life-saving supplies to people by air when roads become impassable. Shelter, poor sanitation and waterborne disease place further strain on over-crowded areas both inside South Sudan and in surrounding countries.

"On top of the violence and violations children have suffered for nearly 100 days, they are now at greater risk than ever of disease and malnutrition," Dr Haque said.

"Time is running out for the children of the world's newest nation – we need better resources, better access, peace and security. Children cannot wait," she said.

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UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. In Australia, UNICEF works with government and advocate bodies to defend children's rights and support international development programs. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


Tim O'Connor, UNICEF Australia
02 8917 3247 / 0435 206 273
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Kate Moore, UNICEF Australia
02 8917 3244 / 0407 150 771
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Read the original release on UNICEF.org.au