The unending wars in South Sudan have crippled the country’s growth prospects and the future of the Africa’s youngest nation looks obscured.
The future of a nation is determined by the vibrancy and health of its children today as well as resources put in place to ensure the development of these children is safe and secure.
In South Sudan however, the future does not look bright, at least not after the war has left its youngest population suffering due to malnutrition, diseases, terror, hostility and other atrocities.
The ranging wars and targeted assault by the militia have caused many non-governmental organizations to pack out of the nation while others have stopped funding recovery humanitarian efforts.
Without support from these NGOs and humanitarian funding, surviving children are on the verge of death as lifesaving interventions like health care, clean water, and malnutrition treatment, to support the over 5 million children affected by the crisis, is unavailable.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that up to 3.3 million children will not be vaccinated against measles while 260,000 children affected by conflict will not be supported to return to school. Additionally, the plans to reunite about 7,300 separated children with their families will not be met due to the aid challenge.
According to UNICEF, despite an urgent request by the organization in South Sudan for $155 million in 2016 to support these lifesaving plans, only $27 million – 18 percent of the call- has been received to date.
With a $128 million gap, the lives of tens of thousands of children are threatened.
Jonathan Veitch, Representative, UNICEF South Sudan noted that “without adequate support” the organization will “simply not be able to provide the services that are needed to prevent children dying from malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria and vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Now in its third year, the South Sudan’s crisis continues to penetrate deep into previously peaceful areas in the west of the country, including Wau and Western Equatoria, where UNICEF and other agencies did not plan to have to provide a lifesaving emergency response.
Many partner groups (nearly 100) which rely on funding and support from UNICEF will be forced to scale back their humanitarian services due to lack of funds.
In the ranging crisis, children have been recruited as soldiers who are often used as bodyguards by their senior officers. These children are engaged in different capacities including cooking, cleaning and performing similar duties. At other times, the young children have been involved in fighting.
There’s also fear of famine attacks as the country approaches May which is characterized by labored weather. Over 40,000 people in central Unity State that have been heavily affected by violence will suffer from the ill-weather conditions.
Terrorizing vulnerable groups
A report released recently revealed that the militia is calculatingly engaging in inhuman activities like killing, raping and dispossessing families of their wealth in the wake of the rising conflicts.
The report details how the militia is raping women and young girls with some being assaulted by over six men at a time.
According to the UN report, children of families that support the opposition, are forced to watch their parents being killed while others have had to watch their mothers and sisters being raped.
Poverty levels are set to increase due to the growing number of poor, urban families that are struggling to put food on the table as a result of rising food prices.
“For the first time since this crisis began, children are being threatened not by a lack of access or capacity, but by a lack of funds,” added Veitch. “Humanitarian aid is now the only thing standing between survival and total destitution for many families,” he said adding that funding is needed now if the youngest members of the world’s youngest nation are to have a future.
Image credit: Colin Crowley/Save the Children