Since December, armed conflict has killed thousands and driven more than 1.3 million South Sudanese from their homes. World Vision is working to meet the needs of displaced children and families.
Across South Sudan, children are struggling to find food and shelter, World Vision officials say.
Almost a quarter of a million children will be severely malnourished by the end of the year, and up to 50,000 children under 5 may die if response is not scaled up immediately, according to a new World Vision report.
Conditions are dire in South Sudan, and will only get worse unless urgent measures are taken to reverse a rapidly deteriorating situation, says World Vision’s report, Sounding the Alarm: The urgent needs of children in South Sudan (.pdf).
Since December, armed conflict has killed thousands and driven more than 1.3 million South Sudanese from their homes. The people face starvation and disease in the coming months if violence keeps displaced families from returning home to plant their crops. The majority of people in South Sudan rely on smallholder farming for survival.
An 8-year-old boy said he walked for five days to escape warring factions in Malakal, in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state. “Now we are living in a deserted school with no idea where to get food from,” he told World Vision.
“These children were supposed to grow up in the new bright hope of newly created South Sudan. Now they face a bleak future unless urgent action is taken,” says Johan Eldebo, a World Vision senior humanitarian policy adviser.
The impending rainy season is only going to make matters worse, aid workers claim.
The report says displaced children are especially vulnerable to recruitment by armed parties in the conflict and physical and sexual violence.
According to the United Nations, all parties to the conflict have committed brutal acts of sexual violence against civilians, including young children. These include rape at gunpoint, gang rape, sexual slavery, and forced abortion.
Children could face even more violence as tensions rise in overcrowded sites on UN peace-keeping bases.
World Vision is helping thousands of people displaced within South Sudan, as well as refugees who have fled into Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya.
Operations in South Sudan include provision of food, nutrition supplements for children, shelter materials, and hygiene kits. In addition, World Vision undertakes family tracing and reunification of separated children and runs Child-Friendly Spaces — safe havens for children where they can play, learn and recover from emotional scars.
World Vision has reached more than 145,000 people in Unity, Warrap, and Upper Nile states affected by the conflict with emergency food, water, hygiene kits, household items, and Child-Friendly Spaces. It also is operating nutrition programs that have helped about 36,000 malnourished children in northern South Sudan.
In Upper Nile state, World Vision is providing seeds and farming tools and equipment to families hosting residents displaced by the conflict. Staff are teaching farmers new methods to increase crop yields and equipping them with a variety of seeds to help reinvigorate or sustain their local markets.
Additional reporting by World Vision’s Tessema Eredie, Michael Arunga, Lucy Murunga, and World Vision U.S.’s Chris Huber.