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South Sudan’s children face urgent plight, donors told

23 May 2014


In line: women and children wait for treatment at a hospital run by  Médecins Sans Frontières, in Leer, Unity State

In line: women and children wait for treatment at a hospital run by  Médecins Sans Frontières, in ...

A SOUTH SUDANESE boy who watched other children drowning as they fled violence is among the children whose stories are told in a new report from World Vision.

"We ran without stopping the whole time, day and night," Simon recalls. "If you stopped, you died. But after running so long, your heart is pounding and your legs are lead. . . Then we had to cross a river. If you couldn't swim you drowned. Many children were screaming and drowning, but you have to keep swimming for your own survival. Can you imagine?"

The report - Sounding the Alarm: The urgent needs of children in South Sudan - was published on Monday, as donors met in Oslo for the South Sudan Humanitarian Conference. Among the recommendations listed is a call for a "rapid scale-up of emergency food". The UN estimates that by the end of this year, half of South Sudan's 12 million people will be either displaced, facing starvation, ordead.

World Vision is also calling on the UN to relieve overcrowding in its camps. World Vision reports that children living in Protection of Civilians camps diplay "higher levels of psychosocial distress", including frequent crying, screaming, fighting, and having nightmares.

On Wednesday, Christian Aid warned that a cholera outbreak in Juba, which has killed nine people, could spread to tens of thousands.

UNICEF estimates that, 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, it is reported. More than half a million children have been displaced by the violence, and more than 9000 have been recruited into armed forces by both sides.

The Oslo conference, co-chaired by Norway's Foreign Minister, Børge Brende, and the UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, sought to raise $1.26 billion. On Tuesday, the British Government announced a new aid package of £60 million for South Sudan, taking the total it has donated since the beginning of the crisis in December to about £93 million.

The international Development Minister, Lynne Featherstone, said: "We will not look the other way while innocent people go through unimaginable suffering. . . But, above all, responsibility for the well-being of the people of South Sudan sits with the leaders of South Sudan. The Government and Opposition need to take steps to speed up the delivery of aid. Clearance through customs for humanitarian goods should take a few days, not almost a month."

Addressing the Security Council on Monday last week, the UN Secretry-General, Ban Ki-Moon, also had a strong message for South Sudan's leaders: "This is an entirely man-made calamity, and it needs the engagement of all actors to change course. . . They must cease a senseless power struggle and restore the sense of national unity that prevailed at the time of independence."

Both sides in the conflict have accused each other of breaching a peace agreement made two weeks ago (News, 16 May).

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