The UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Pakkala has bemoaned the astounding number of child refugees coming from South Sudan saying the “future of a generation is truly on the brink”.
UNICEF and UNHCR announced on Monday that more than one million children have fled South Sudan where escalating conflict is ravaging the country.
“The horrifying fact that nearly one in five children in South Sudan has been forced to flee their home illustrates how devastating this conflict has been for the country’s most vulnerable.
No refugee crisis today worries me more than South Sudan. That refugee children are becoming the defining face of this emergency is incredibly troubling
Add this to the more than one million children who are also displaced within South Sudan, and the future of a generation is truly on the brink,” Pakkala said.
Children who make up 62 percent of the more than 1.8 million South Sudanese refugee population now live in neighbouring countries including Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Over 75,00 refugee children in these countries crossed South Sudan’s border either unaccompanied or are separated from their families.
A further 1.14 million children, the UN notes are internally displaced whereas more than a thousand of them have been killed or injured since the civil war first broke in 2013.
Quite apart from the large number of child refugees coming from South Sudan, the country also has the highest population of out-of-school children in the world, the UN said, indicating that nearly three quarters of the country’s children are not in school.
UNHCR’s Africa Bureau Director, Valentin Tapsoba said: “No refugee crisis today worries me more than South Sudan. That refugee children are becoming the defining face of this emergency is incredibly troubling.”
Children remain at risk of recruitment by armed forces or groups and, with traditional social structures damaged, they are also increasingly vulnerable to violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, a statement from the UNHCR said.
Whereas the South Sudan refugee crisis has been largely fueled by the escalating violence in the country, the recent drought in the Horn of Africa and other parts of the continent, has also worsened the plight of many children who are now malnourished.
The UNHCR says it’s appeal for funding for South Sudan has yield $ 781.8 million representing just about 11 percent and is therefore calling for “committed and sustainable support to be able to save” the lives of the refugees.