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UNICEF: Desperate water shortages facing children in Bentiu, South Sudan

2014-04-22

Last week’s fighting doubles population sheltering at UN base

JUBA, South Sudan, 22 April 2014 – Tens of thousands of people who fled targeted ethnic violence in Bentiu last week are receiving just one litre of safe drinking water per day in the desperately overcrowded UN base, UNICEF said today.

The UN children’s agency says the influx – more than 10,000 people arrived last week, taking the population of the UN Mission’s Protection of Civilians site to approximately 23,000 – together with continued unrest and the beginning of the rainy season, has put an unbearable strain on the emergency response.  

“Those who survived horrendous violence now face the very real risk of fatal water-borne disease outbreak”, said UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch. “Children have endured unspeakable violence – they must not continue to suffer in places that should provide safety.”

Trucks that bring fresh water every day to the camp face a precarious security situation and frequently become stuck on roads muddied by heavy rains. The rains have also collapsed a number of latrines at the camp, with now just one latrine per 350 people.  Many of UNICEF’s humanitarian partners have had to leave the area because of the security situation.

The agency has maintained staff in Bentiu and is rapidly responding to the urgent needs, drilling new boreholes for water, and today flying in parts for the construction of new latrines. However, UNICEF said it remains hindered by a lack of funding and access.

UNICEF continues to call on those in positions of command and leadership to keep children out of harm’s way, and to ensure safe access for humanitarian work.   

More than one million people have been displaced by the conflict in South Sudan.

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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.