15 December 2017
Childhood under attack
In South Sudan, children have become the face of a humanitarian tragedy fuelled by conflict and economic collapse.
In the world’s youngest country, an entire generation of children is at stake as they face death, injury, hunger, disease, recruitment, forced displacement and loss of schooling since conflict broke out in December 2013. Four years later there is limited progress in bringing hostilities to an end. UNICEF continues to deliver for the children at the centre of this conflict.
Armed conflict, high food prices, poor health services and sanitation, and disease outbreaks led to high levels of malnutrition among children. International aid helped end the world’s first famine in six years, but the nutrition situation remains critical. Women unload relief supplies in Jonglei State.
While 1.3 million people are on the brink of famine, an estimated 1.1 million children are acutely malnourished, including almost 280,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Since December 2013, UNICEF and partners have treated over 600,000 children for this life-threatening condition. Maria, 2, drinks therapeutic milk.
Violence in South Sudan is taking a terrible toll on children. UNICEF has grave concerns for over 19,000 children in armed forces and groups. In 2017, UNICEF and partners provided psychosocial support to 230,000 children. [NAME CHANGED] Gatkuoth, 15, is in school after his release from an armed group.
Thousands of children like Nyaguai, 8, have been separated from their families as fighting has displaced communities. Over 16,000 unaccompanied, separated and missing children have been registered through the family tracing and reunification service. UNICEF and partners, have now reunited over 5,200 children.
South Sudan’s health system is crumbling. Health facilities have been looted and destroyed. Disease outbreaks have increased as the conflict has reduced access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Since December 2013, UNICEF and partners have provided safe water to over 1.8 million people.
Providing safe drinking water to South Sudan’s population is a priority, just 41% of people have access to this. In Bentiu, UNICEF and partners, rehabilitated a water treatment plant. It now pumps 500,000 litres of water per day through six kilometres of pipes to the inhabitants of the town.
Polio is a preventable disease that continues to affect South Sudan, but the government is committed to eradicating it. UNICEF supports the provision of safe vaccines. During a campaign in March 2017, three million children were vaccinated against polio. A child is immunized against polio in Aburoc.
One in ten children die from malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea before turning 5. More than 1.3 million people fell ill with malaria in 2017. This year, UNICEF has distributed nearly 200,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets to families to protect their children. A health worker screens a child for malaria in Ajoung Thok.
The civil war has deprived many children of their education. Some two million school-age children are estimated to be out of school. This year, UNICEF and partners have enrolled more than 300,000 conflict-affected children in pre-primary and primary education. Tabitha, 15, at school in Torit.
About 31% of teachers have stopped going to school because of non-payment of salaries. If this persists, only one in 13 children will complete primary education. In 2017, UNICEF and partners, trained over 10,000 teachers and education personnel. A class in the Protection of Civilians site in Juba.
Read the report — Childhood under Attack: The staggering impact of South Sudan’s crisis on children.