An Update on the Crisis in South Sudan
Since mid-December, armed conflict has engulfed South Sudan, with clashes taking place between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and others backing his former deputy Riek Machar.
More than 60,000 civilians fleeing the violence have already arrived at UN compounds in Juba, Bor, Malakal, and Bentiu. According to the UN, 200,000 people are estimated to have been displaced across the country, with another 32,000 South Sudanese seeking shelter in neighboring Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
In the midst of the chaos, Plan South Sudan is already responding to children and their communities’ needs in coordination with other agencies. Plan’s initial response in Juba within the first week of the crisis provided water to 5000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Ensuring the rights of children are protected in emergencies is critical, and Plan teams are currently addressing needs in Awerial, Lake States, where up to 84,200 IDPS have taken refuge. The Plan team has so far registered 7,200 malnourished children under 5 for targeted supplementary feeding, and distribution of nutrition supplements to these children will begin on Friday, January 10, in partnership with the World Food Program (WFP). Additional focus will also be on child protection; water, sanitation, and hygiene services; as well psychosocial support to affected children.
“The situation on the ground in Awerial in humanitarian terms is very grim. Most of the people there have fled fighting in Bor in Jonglei State. They didn’t take anything with them, they haven’t had food, they haven’t had access to clean water, and don’t have shelter. In some cases the people are wounded and don’t have medical care,” Acting Regional Director of Plan in Eastern and Southern Africa, Hazel Nyathi, has said.
“We cannot allow this situation to continue. We are therefore appealing for support to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” she added. In order to avert an even more disastrous situation, Plan has launched an appeal for US$10 million to offer humanitarian support to thousands of children and their families who have sought sanctuary in Awerial. The appeal funds raised will be used to supply the displaced families with basic humanitarian needs such as food, clean water, hygiene, and sanitation over the next few months.
As an organization committed to protecting and safeguarding the rights of children, Plan is particularly focused on the impacts of the conflict upon children and young people’s welfare, education, and future prospects. Of immediate concern are the many children who have been separated from families and caregivers. It makes them more vulnerable to violence and abuse. Risk of being trafficked or becoming recruited as child soldiers into army or militia also increases, particularly in a country with a track record of using child soldiers and an estimated 2,000 children still enrolled in the army despite a pledge made to abandon such practices.
Adolescent girls and young women are also particularly vulnerable in conflict – at greater risk of sexual abuse, exploitation, and violence. Girls can also be at higher risk of becoming child brides or pushed into early marriage. When food is in short supply, often girls are the last to receive their portions.
At the same time, given the tense security situation, humanitarian access continues to be constrained by active hostilities, attacks on aid workers and assets, interference with humanitarian activities, and other obstacles. Humanitarian flights into Bor were severely disrupted as a result of ongoing fighting in the area, which has not allowed humanitarian actors to secure all necessary safety assurances to launch flights. Engagement with all parties to the hostilities is ongoing to secure safe access by aid agencies to civilians in need.