South Sudanese child refugees flock to take refuge in Uganda

26 May 2017

ALL WE CAN

Forced to leave home: Angelina Awen sits with her granddaughter Aok in a camp for more than 5000 internally displaced persons in an Episcopal Church compound in Wau, South Sudan

Forced to leave home: Angelina Awen sits with her granddaughter Aok in a camp for more than 5000 internally displaced persons in an Episcopal Church c...

MORE than 100 children are fleeing from South Sudan and walking alone to neighbouring Uganda every day: one aid agency has warned that the country will soon be home to 10,000 unaccompanied child refu­­gees.

Uganda has been taking in more than 2000 refugees a day — the ma­­jor­­ity of whom are women and chil­dren. More than a million children have fled the ongoing violence in South Sudan, the UN Refugee Agency has said.

The Christian children’s charity World Vision is warning that Uganda will soon be home to more than 10,000 recently separated child refugees. It is registering thousands of unaccompanied children at what has become the world’s largest refugee camp, Bidi Bidi, which now houses at least 270,000 refugees. The number of separated children was “staggering” and “alarming”, the charity said.

World Vision’s Uganda national director, Gilbert Kamanga, said: “Every day, World Vision is regis­­tering more than 100 separated and unaccompanied minors. The majority of these children saw their parents being killed, while others lost touch with their families once fighting broke out. Some of them walk for more than a week to get to Uganda, with nothing to eat. This is one of the worst forms of violence against children.”

The charity has arranged interim foster-care support for more than 2500 unaccompanied minors, and helped 1000 separated children to reunite with relatives.

“Children make up the highest percentage of new arrivals, and they bear the brunt of the conflict in South Sudan,” Mr Kamanga said.

World Vision’s figures show that 6057 unaccompanied minors and separated children have been regis­tered at Bidi Bidi, while 3098 chil­dren have been registered at the Imvepi refugee settlement.

Famine has been declared in two regions of South Sudan, and is now likely to spread to a third, the US-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network said. Some 40 per cent of the country is classed as severely food-insecure.

A thousand children are believed to have been killed by the violence since 2013, when civil war broke out. More than a million have fled their homes, and three-quarters of all children in the country are out of school, the UN reports.

The Methodist Church’s charity All We Can has launched an appeal to raise money to feed the starving of South Sudan. It is working with local partners to set up centres to dispense treatment to malnourished children.

Church compounds have also become temporary campsites for thousands of people who are fleeing the conflict. Some of the churches — such as the Episcopal church in Wau — are providing sanctuary for 5000 refugees.

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