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4.5 million children in S. Sudan in “desperate” need: UNICEF

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July 6, 2021 (JUBA/NAIROBI) – At least 4.5 million children in South Sudan are in “desperate” need of humanitarian support, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) warned on Wednesday ahead of the 10th anniversary of the country’s independence due on July 9.

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Children in South Sudan. (Photo UNMISS/Ilya Medvedev)

The agency, in a report on the impact of the humanitarian crisis on children, said hopes the independence would bring a new dawn for the country’s children have faded.

Bouts of violence and conflict, recurring floods, droughts and other extreme weather events fuelled by climate change, and a deepening economic crisis have led to extremely high food insecurity, and one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, it noted.

“The hope and optimism that children and families in South Sudan felt at the birth of their country in 2011 have slowly turned to desperation and hopelessness,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, adding “The childhood of many 10-year-old children in South Sudan today has been beset by violence, crises and rights abuses.”

Some 8.3 million people in South Sudan need humanitarian support, a much higher number than the levels seen during the 2013-2018 civil war, which ranged from 6.1 million to 7.5 million people.

The child mortality rate is among the highest in the world, with 1 in 10 children not expected to reach their fifth birthday.

According to UNICEF, limited access to education and high drop-out rates have left 2.8 million children out of school – the highest proportion of out of school children in the world at more than 70 per cent of school-age children. The 14-month school closure due to Covid-19 reportedly force additional 2 million children out of school.

The agency, however, said despite the continued insecurity, it is working with partners to increase the capacity to screen and treat children for acute malnutrition with an expected caseload of 1.4 million children in 2021.

UNICEF has appealed for $180 million to assist the most vulnerable children this year, stressing that only one third of the appeal had so far been funded.

“If we, as a humanitarian community, do not receive sufficient funding, the reality for children and families is that no help will be coming,” said Andrea Suley, the UNICEF South Sudan Representative.

(ST)

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