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UNICEF: South Sudan on the edge of nutrition catastrophe if hostilities don’t end now

2015-02-04

JUBA, February 4, 2015 – UNICEF urged warring groups in South Sudan to follow up fast on the ceasefire deal reached Monday or face potentially catastrophic food shortages in the conflict areas of the country.

Based on the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) group of experts’ report released this week, the ongoing conflict is sharply reducing food supplies and slowing humanitarian access to those who most need assistance.

UNICEF staff and partners are now seeing large numbers of people on the move in conflict areas because of food shortages.

UNICEF’s latest nutrition report supports the findings of the IPC and says that only a rapid scaling up of humanitarian aid prevented a further deterioration of the nutrition situation, particularly in the worst-hit states.

“UNICEF needs access to remote areas made inaccessible because of the fighting,” UNICEF Representative in South Sudan, Jonathan Veitch said. “This is where the crisis is forming. Both parties to the ceasefire need to reach a long-term settlement or face a growing food crisis by the end of the dry and lean season.

“We remain on edge and any increase in violence will see supply routes cut, markets disrupted and humanitarian access denied. This would be catastrophic for acutely malnourished children and could quickly lead to high levels of mortality.”

At least 229,000 children are estimated to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition in South Sudan – a number that has doubled since the start of the conflict just over a year ago.

Working with the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF continues to step up aid for malnourished children across South Sudan. UNICEF and partners provided therapeutic feeding treatment for almost 100,000 severely malnourished in 2014 and are aiming to reach 137,000 children under five suffering from severe acute malnutrition in 2015.

UNICEF and WFP are also flying in expert teams to remote locations that are cut off from humanitarian aid, in what is called Rapid Response Missions.  During these missions, UNICEF screens children for malnutrition and refers and treats those who are moderately and severely malnourished. 

Staff also register unaccompanied children in order to reunify them with their families, provide basic health and education services, and deliver supplies to provide safe water.  More than 600,000 people, including over 142,000 children under 5, have been reached through 37 missions to date.  

UNICEF is urgently appealing for additional funding of $34 million to continue to scale up its nutrition response in South Sudan in 2015. 

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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.