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Dire humanitarian crisis emerging in South Sudan, says UNICEF

2014-01-27

Children dying from measles and other diseases – UNICEF and partners start vaccination campaign

BOR, South Sudan 26 January 2014 – In the wake of the ceasefire signed late last week, UNICEF is warning of a humanitarian crisis unfolding outside Bor town in Jonglei state and other towns in South Sudan.

Amid an outbreak of measles among children in the Protection of Civilian (PoC) centres at UNMISS camp - which caused at least 30 child deaths - UNICEF rushed in supplies overnight to vaccinate 4,000 children against measles and polio and supplied Vitamin A to boost children’s immune system. Few humanitarian agencies have been able to gain access to the population of Bor who fled the fighting to seek protection in the PoC centre in Bor. Grave insecurity means only a limited number of aid workers are able to operate within the centre.  

A team of five health officials from the UN Children’s Fund stayed overnight in the Bor camp to distribute vaccines and train 10 teams of local vaccinators to immunize at least 4,000 children in the cramped and overcrowded camp.

“Children have survived violent conflict only to face the risk of dying in appalling conditions — and if we can’t reach them with humanitarian aid, that risk will increase dramatically,” said Dermot Carty deputy director of Emergency Programmes for UNICEF.

Bor is just 140 kms from Juba but the road has been the frontline in the South Sudan conflict. The health infrastructure in Bor, as in other parts of the country, has been largely destroyed or supplies have been looted.

The immunization campaign kicked off after two plane loads of urgently needed medical supplies were chartered by UNICEF and flew into Juba this week, carrying 70 tons of urgently needed supplies for children and women.  The planes brought in medical supplies, cold chain equipment, treatment for malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition, as well as nutrients, vitamins, antibiotics and pain-killers for children. The supplies also include midwifery and obstetric surgery kits and water and sanitation equipment, and tents, tarpaulins and blankets.

Immunization campaigns are also underway in camps for the displaced in Juba. In total UNICEF and partners aim to vaccinate 180,000 children below 15 years against measles polio and measles.

UNICEF still needs $32 million to meet immediate needs for the South Sudan crisis.

The numbers of displaced increased rapidly – at least half a million people are now estimated to have left their homes;  Nearly 70,000 of those displaced within the country are sheltering in Protection of Civilian (PoC) centers of the UN Mission in South Sudan; 86,000 are reported to have fled to neighbouring countries. Most are women and children.

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For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.