March 15, 2012 (JUBA) — A United Nations special envoy on Thursday
warned of the possibility of “large scale humanitarian crisis” in the
word’s newest nation, unless resources are mobilized to ensure
protection and safety of children returning from neighboring north.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative to the Secretary
General (SRSG) on Children and Armed Conflict said UN humanitarian
partners are deeply concerned about the numbers of returnees,
anticipated to drastically increase in the next few weeks.
“The international community must be on alert for the possibility of a
large scale humanitarian crisis and resources should be mobilized to
ensure that children returning from Sudan are given the proper care
and protection,” she said.
Currently on a South Sudan visit as part of follow-on signing of the
action plan between the UN and the Sudan People Liberation Army
(SPLA), Coomaraswamy also held talks with President Salva Kiir, at
which the latter re-affirmed the army’s commitment to release all
children from their ranks.
The SRSG on children and armed conflict, on Wednesday, visited Renk in
Upper Nile state to obtain first hand assessment on the status of
returnee children from Sudan to South Sudan. While in Renk, she
reportedly met with the local commander of the SPLA and reinforced the
message of the revised action plan, which was signed in Juba on
During her visit to Jonglei state, Coomaraswamy decried the high level
of child abductions in the region, which she said was fuelling the
conflict between Lou Neur and Murle communities.
“It is important that the best interest of the child is at the heart
of any reconciliation,” she told local leaders, UN partners and
representatives from non-governmental organizations.
Coomaraswamy urged South Sudan government to take education as a
priority in the new austerity budget, which was introduced in the wake
of the current oil crisis.
“For this new nation to flourish, it is essential that education is
made a priority, even with an austerity budget,” she said, while
emphasizing the importance of effective social programmes that will
prevent children from being lured into armed militias.