By Likambu Caesar Jiggo, RA 2017 Young Leader
The new UNICEF report states that Children in South Sudan are victims of malnutrition, disease, forced recruitment, violence and the loss of schooling. Years of insecurity and upheaval have had a “staggering impact on children”, threatening an entire generation, the 2017 report, Childhood under Attack, says.
The numbers tell a grim story: almost three million children are severely food insecure; more than one million are acutely malnourished;2.4 million have been forced from their homes; two million children out of school, and if the current situation persists, only one in 13 children are likely to finish primary school; an estimated 900,000 children suffer from psychological distress; more than 19,000 children have been recruited in the ranks of armed forces and armed groups; and more than 2,300 children have been killed or injured since the conflict first erupted in December 2013, with hundreds of incidents of rape and sexual assault against children having been reported.
Children in South Sudan have experienced all horrors unthinkable to them on daily basis. Instead of receiving a peaceful and protective environment they have been let down by government and society. In the early 1980s, according to The Guardian, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army( SPLA) recruited and began training boys as young as 12 to fight in its battle for independence from Sudan. The child soldier were called the Red Army. According to confessions from military officers, the Red Army fought and was always massacred.
Rebecca Garang, widow of South Sudan’s SPLA founder, John Garang in an interview with Al Jazeera Upfront said under age children who fought Sudan’s long civil war followed adult soldiers for better services like food. All these point at the suffering children in the war torn country have gone through and are still enduring the same.
UNICEF, Save the Children, among other humanitarian organizations, have been operating in the country, trying to put a smile on the children by providing them with scholastic materials, food, clothing and other basics. UNICEF has been delivering lifesaving assistance to children across the country since the crisis started in December 2013, including: treatment for severe acute malnutrition, vaccination against measles, provision of primary health care services , and supporting the access to safe water supply
This has been done despite the huge challenges faced in a country that ranks among the world’s most dangerous for aid workers. Since the conflict started in 2013, 95 aid workers have been killed, including 25 killed so far this year.
Getting assistance to those most in need continues to be a challenge in many insecure areas of the country. Humanitarian organizations have been stopped by the government soldiers from accessing some areas believed to be rebel stronghold.
Humanitarian organizations in South Sudan are now looking for the full implementation of a recent Presidential order calling for unrestricted access to those in urgent need of aid. In releasing Childhood under Attack, UNICEF warned that new funding is essential in order to provide critical assistance to children and women. In 2018 UNICEF requires $183 million, and currently has a funding gap of 77 per cent (or $141 million).
There is need to allow humanitarian organizations to move to various parts of the country to deliver lifesaving assistance to children caught up in the crisis without hindrance. The presidential directive therefore needs to be implemented by the people concerned. Most areas of the Greater Equatoria region, the Upper Nile and Jonglei have been denied access by the government.
The international community should try their best to bring the conflict to an end so that children live a normal life like others in developed countries. The war has led to the death of many parents leading to emergence of orphans who have no hope of tomorrow.
There is need to open schools for the children to learn because education changes the way people think. Since children are the future of the country, they need to be prepared for the future. The orphaned children need to be taken care of, providing them with a place to stay or building foster families so that children receive the best care they should be getting.
The humanitarian organizations should include setting up counseling committees to talk to the traumatized children and help recover their lives. According to UN, the majority of the refugees who fled the war torn country are women and children. Most who fled alone have either lost one parent or both and are traumatized. Such children need healing from the minds that witnessed the horrors back home. There are children who witnessed their parents being killed in front of them and this experience continues to haunt them even when they find a second home.
Conclusively, stopping child abuse in South Sudan will only be realized if we all acknowledge and work towards peace and protection them all.