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UNICEF fears the worst for hundreds of thousands of children in South Sudan

2014-05-20

Malnutrition, cholera and conflict stalk youngest citizens of newest nation

Oslo, 19 May 2014 – On the eve of the Oslo Humanitarian Pledging Conference, UNICEF warned that hundreds of thousands of children in South Sudan’s three most conflict-affected states are at imminent risk of death and disease, including the threat of cholera.

The United Nations Secretary General has said that by the end of this year, half of South Sudan’s 12 million people will be either in flight, facing starvation, or dead.  At least half of these are children – the most innocent victims in what is increasingly becoming a children’s emergency.  Children and women constitute the majority of those fleeing to neighboring countries.

“The dream of a safe and peaceful South Sudan is becoming a living nightmare for its children,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt.  “Right now, the children of South Sudan need humanitarian assistance; they need their leaders to protect their lives, their rights, and their futures; and they need the world to listen – and demand action on their behalf.” 

Already, around 80 per cent of children under of the age of five in the three most conflict-affected states - Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity - are at heightened risk of disease and death. 

Despite 80,000 people having been fully vaccinated against cholera, the Ministry of Health has confirmed a cholera outbreak in Juba.  The cholera caseload is doubling every day, providing troubling proof that the deadly disease is spreading.  UNICEF has helped set up a cholera treatment centre, is supplying tents for triage and patient care, hygiene equipment, clean water and oral rehydration solutions.  Over the past 24 hours, hundreds of people have been trained to inform and mobilize communities.

Across the country, as many as 50,000 children could die from malnutrition; 740,000 children under the age of five are at high risk of food insecurity.  Many are already resorting to eating wild foods such as bulbs and grasses.

More than half a million children have fled the violence. Women and girls are increasingly sexually assaulted and the targets of gender-based violence.  Schools and hospitals have been attacked or used by parties to conflict. More than 9,000 children have been recruited into armed forces by both sides.  Thousands of children are separated from their families, within South Sudan and in neighboring countries.

Although tireless efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance continue, without an all-inclusive political solution and a broader peace-building framework for promoting social cohesion, the crisis will deteriorate further, with profound consequences and impact on the most vulnerable, especially children.

UNICEF repeats its call for all parties to provide unhindered and safe access for humanitarian assistance; and to respect their own agreements to stop the violence against children, sexual and gender-based violence, and the recruitment of children.

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Funding requirement: UNICEF requires US$111m in 2014 to respond to the needs of children and women affected by the current crisis. UNICEF’s 2014 funding requirements have increased significantly since the beginning of the year due to the deteriorating situation in South Sudan. Without additional funding, UNICEF will not be able to continue with critical humanitarian programmes to meet the need of women and children affected by this crisis.

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

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.