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South Sudan: Conflict and the threats to children

Violent conflict in South Sudan has created in a crisis in which 6.4 million people out of a population of 11.3 million are in need of immediate aid. Children are among those most at risk for malnutrition, disease, and recruitment into armed groups.

| By Kathryn Reid, World Vision



Fast facts

  • Violent conflict in South Sudan has killed tens of thousands and driven more than 2 million people from their homes.
  • About 1.6 million people — including more than 823,000 children — are internally displaced; the rest are refugees in nearby countries.
  • Some 4.6 million people are in need of food aid.
  • Displaced South Sudanese, especially children, are threatened by malnutrition, disease, and violence.
  • Internally displaced people (IDPs) live in overcrowded camps, putting a severe strain on the food, water, healthcare, shelter, and sanitation services available.
  • We’ve assisted more than 693,000 people with food and nutrition, clean water and sanitation, household goods, education, and child protection.

A country in crisis

Since December 2013, violent conflict in South Sudan has killed tens of thousands and driven more than 2 million South Sudanese from their homes.

About 1.6 million people are displaced within the country, including 194,000 civilians who have sought shelter in U.N. bases. A fragile peace agreement signed in August 2015 has yet to eliminate fighting.

The most recent analysis of food security shows that for 4.6 million people in South Sudan, lack of food is at a crisis level. Displaced families have been unable to farm and feed livestock. Food prices have risen significantly, and aid groups have been unable to deliver relief goods in remote, contested areas.

As violence escalates, more and more children are witnesses or victims of attacks. With little to keep them occupied, children are also vulnerable to armed recruitment by government or militia forces.

Why is hunger a growing problem in South Sudan?

Conflict is the main reason behind the current crisis, including increased levels of hunger. Armed opposition groups are fighting government troops in several states.

Conflict and insecurity make it difficult for humanitarian organizations to distribute food and other aid. The rainy season also cut off road transportation to more than 60 percent of the nation, making the situation worse.

Children recount horrific fighting in South Sudan

As violence escalates in South Sudan, more and more children are witnesses to or victims of attacks.

What other threats are children facing?

Many children can’t go to school, and there is little for them to do in displacement camps. Extreme poverty and a history of exposure to conflict make children vulnerable to recruitment as soldiers. The U.N. children’s agency estimated there were 12,000 child soldiers in South Sudan at the end of 2014.

There are also reports of sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

Children need safety, healthy activities, opportunities to learn, and psychosocial support so they can recover from overwhelming experiences.

Check out our South Sudan special report, “Tattered Dreams,” at
World Vision magazine.
Read More

What is life like for people displaced by the conflict?

Fearful of further attacks, many internally displaced people live in overcrowded camps, including more than 194,000 people who sought protection in U.N.-controlled settlements. They depend on organizations like World Vision for food, shelter, water, sanitation services, and healthcare.

More than 600,000 South Sudanese live in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya.

Snapshots from South Sudan

How is World Vision responding in South Sudan?

More than 693,000 people have benefited from World Vision assistance in South Sudan, which includes:

  • Emergency food supplies for families
  • Special nutrition treatment for malnourished children and for pregnant and lactating women
  • Support for food security and livelihoods, including seeds, training, livestock, and livestock vaccinations
  • Clean water, hygiene kits, sanitation facilities, and training on cholera prevention
  • Shelter items, mosquito nets, blankets, and other household goods
  • Child-Friendly Spaces for healthy play, learning, protection, and activities that help children avoid recruitment into armed groups
  • Family tracing and reunification for unaccompanied children

We also provide assistance to South Sudan refugees in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya.