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Time running out for children in South Sudan says UNICEF

2014-03-26

After nearly 100 days of conflict, limited humanitarian access and rains threaten aid efforts

NEW YORK, 25 March 2014- 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 said today. 

“With the annual rains fast approaching, the clock is ticking louder and louder towards a humanitarian disaster for children in South Sudan,” said Dr Yasmin Haque, UNICEF's Deputy Director of Emergency Programmes who has just returned from South Sudan.

“The people we met in Nyal in Unity State sought refuge on small islands surrounded by water. 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.”

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 water borne diseases place further strain on over-crowded areas both inside South Sudan and in surrounding countries.

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

Canadians can help by donating to UNICEF's Emergency Fund.

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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.