JUBA - Plan International has warned that the recent spate of violence in Juba, South Sudan, has put already vulnerable children at further risk of abuse and exploitation.
Fighting between rival forces left close to 300 people dead, including civilians and UN Peacekeepers. A ceasefire achieved between warring factions in the last few days appears to be holding, however overall uncertainty remains.
According to the Plan International South Sudan Country Director, Daniel Muchena:
“This turn of events places already vulnerable children at further risk of abuse and exploitation. In situations of conflict, there is gross violation of children’s rights—especially their rights to education, health care and protection as well as participation in issues that affect their lives. The renewed fighting is very worrisome as the situation for children is likely to worsen, making a difficult situation that much worse.”
Plan International is joining calls for lasting solutions to safeguard the lives of innocent children caught up in the fighting. The organization is currently assessing the situation with a view to ensuring a timely and secure restart to its existing lifesaving and emergency work, following a temporary suspension of its operations.
The South Sudan crisis has been termed a children’s crisis, with official reports indicating approximately 70% of the current South Sudanese refugees to be under 18. According to the UN Refugee Agency’s Revised South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan which was relaunched last week on July 15th, children and youth are among the most affected, and the current response is severely underfunded at only 19% funding against a budget of $701M.
Already, the country has experienced displacement, abuse, and exploitation of children and the recent events are likely to aggravate an already difficult environment. Marginal gains made to provide education services to children since 2011 are at risk of being halted.
Poverty underpins many of the humanitarian challenges facing the people of South Sudan, particularly children. According to UNICEF, since the conflict broke out in 2013, an estimated 400,000 children have dropped out of school with 9,000-15,000 children reported to be serving as child soldiers. Less than 50% of children are reported to be in school with thousands of children having been conscripted as child soldiers.
Current UN estimates place two out of every three people in South Sudan to be food insecure, with the ongoing drought placing children at risk of severe acute malnutrition. In addition, as a result of this recent crisis, there are major concerns around a surge in water borne diseases, including cholera. There were already some cases of cholera before the crisis, with limited fresh water supplies the situation may worsen.
Before this recent flare up, South Sudan was generally recognized as being one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world in terms of duration and scale of impact and the recent events are likely to exacerbate the situation.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 peace deal that ended Africa's longest-running civil war.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Plan International experts are available for media interviews.
About Plan International South Sudan
Plan International started operations in South Sudan in 2006 and currently runs programmes in four states: Lakes, Eastern Equatoria, Central Equatoria, and Jonglei states.
Plan International South Sudan has been responding to the 2013 crisis by providing lifesaving support and most recently recovery in Jonglei, Lakes and Eastern Equatoria states. Long-term development is ongoing in Central and Eastern Equatoria through Plan International’s child sponsorship program, female teacher training, education support in schools, and youth skills training and entrepreneurship development.
About Plan International USA
Plan International USA, part of the Plan International Federation, is a child-centered development organization that believes in the promise and potential of children. For more than 75 years in over 50 developing countries, Plan has been breaking the cycle of child poverty. Everything Plan does – from strengthening health care systems to improving the quality of education, to advocating for increased protection and beyond – is built with, and owned by, the community. The result is a development approach designed to improve the lives of the youngest members of the community for the longest period of time. For more information, please visit PlanUSA.org.