South Sudan: six months of fighting, a generation of children at risk
South Sudan: Six months after fighting erupted we must act now save a generation
Six months ago today, fighting of shocking brutality erupted in South Sudan.
The toll of those months of conflict makes grim reading: more than 500,000 children have been forced to flee their homes and are now scattered across the bush, staying in overstretched communities or bunched together in camps, their lives in limbo.
Three-quarters of those hit by the crisis are under 18
There are 95 schools that remain occupied by armed groups or displaced people; a quarter of all schools in the country are closed.
Communities are cut off from supplies with families surviving on leaves and grass. Famine looms. Unless swift action is taken, 2.5 million children face a hunger crisis and 50,000 are likely to die of malnutrition.
More than 9,000 children have been recruited into armed groups since the fighting began, while at least 22,300 have been affected by grave violations including attacks on schools, sexual violence and abductions.
South Sudan’s children have suffered for six months. The question is, what kind of future will they have?
Building lasting peace and security
I have seen children responding with courage, hope and determination. All parties involved in the fighting should follow their example.
These brave children are at serious risk, not just from the violence but from the psychological impact of what they have already been through. Without psychosocial support now to help them recover from their traumatic experiences, the events of these past few months could scar their entire futures.
Dwindling food stocks, rising prices and empty stomachs
Many communities are trapped: completely cut off from possible help. To travel along roads that cross the front line? “That is the end of your life,” I have been told.
Other, less dangerous, roads have become impassable as the rains turn rough roads into muddy quagmires.
In remote areas, families already eating grass and leaves have told me their food supplies will run out completely by the end of June. The rains will also become too heavy then to plant crops.
These children want to learn
These people desperately need seeds and tools now so they’ll have a harvest in the autumn. Otherwise, the hunger crisis will only deepen. And they need food to see them through until then.
Yet with all the hardship, hunger and uncertainty, children tell me they want education above all. They are right to want this: the longer a child is out of school, the further they fall behind and the more likely they are never to return. South Sudan’s future depends on giving its children their right to learn.
Six months on from the start of the crisis the need to act could not be more urgent. Save the Children is doing whatever it takes to bring children protection, education, and treatment for malnourishment. We need your help to reach more children. Their future hangs in the balance.
*Name changed to protect identity