[UNMISS, South Sudan] Without more global attention and support, an entire generation of children from South Sudan could be lost, UN agencies warned today.
In a joint press release issued exactly two years since conflict erupted in the country, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said South Sudan’s children remain some of the most vulnerable in the world.
The agencies called for all parties to uphold their commitments to the Peace Agreement, so as to allow the almost 1.5 million South Sudanese children to return home and receive an education, and child soldiers to be released and reintegrated.
The statement noted that over the past two years, 1.65 million people have become internally displaced, and more than 650,000 South Sudanese have sought international protection as refugees in neighbouring countries.
"Around two thirds of those who fled their homes and communities in South Sudan are children," said Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, UNICEF's Regional Director in Eastern and Southern Africa. "Respect for the Peace
Agreement by all parties will enable children to reignite prospects and hopes for a dignified future.”
The statement gave details of the steps taken by UNHCR, UNICEF and 14 child protection partners to respond to the situation including provision of life-saving supplies in remote locations and enabling thousands of children to return to school.
Other steps included establishing effective systems to ensure adequate identification of the most vulnerable children, setting up 105 child-friendly spaces in refugee locations and scaling up health care in refugee camps for malnourished children.
Partners also provided medical and psycho-social support to child survivors of gender-based violence, vaccinated children against measles and polio, and ensured that children could continue to receive some level of education.
"Two years since the current crisis erupted, South Sudanese represent the largest refugee population in the region with nearly three quarters of a million people forced into neighboring countries," said Ann Encontre, UNHCR's Regional Refugee Coordinator for the South Sudan Emergency. "With most of those displaced being children, South Sudan cannot afford to have a generation of children lost, as in them lies the future and hope of the young nation."
The statement noted that were several challenges in responding to the emergency such as the unprecedented number of children who are internally displaced or refugees in neighboring countries; the exhaustion of community coping mechanisms; and weak national systems.
“In South Sudan, children's needs for vital resources such as medicines, food, and shelter, far outweigh availability, and at least half a million children have had their education disrupted,” the statement noted.
The UN agencies called on the international community for funds to provide shelter, education, health care, clean water, and other basic necessities for survival, as well as for the reintegration of children formerly in armed groups.
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