The United Nations has warned that the future of an entire generation in South Sudan is about to be consumed by the escalating civil war, with the latest figures indicating that more than one million children have fled the country since the violence started.
This increasing number of South Sudanese children being displaced within and outside the country is clear evidence of the devastating toll that the conflict is taking on the country’s most vulnerable group of persons, according to UNICEF’s regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leile Pakkala.
“No refugee crisis today worries me more than South Sudan. The future of a generation is truly on the brink,” Pakkala said in a statement released by her organization on Sunday.
She further called on the international community to offer urgent, committed and reliable support to the humanitarian community in South Sudan, insisting that refugee children in and out of the country are increasingly becoming the defining face of the crisis.
According to the report, more than one thousand children in South Sudan have been killed or injured in the ongoing conflict, while at least 1.14 million children have been internally displaced.
Furthermore, nearly three quarters of the country’s children are not in school, which is the highest percentage of out-of-school children in the world.
In addition to suffering constant upheaval, trauma, fear and stress, UNICEF says children in South Sudan remain at risk of being recruited into armed forces and militia groups.
And with most traditional social structures in the country being already destroyed, children in the world’s youngest nation are exposed to all manner of violence, including sexual abuse and exploitation.
The organization further reports that over 75,000 refugee children from South Sudan have crossed over to Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia either unaccompanied or separated from their families.
“Much greater support is needed to ensure that every refugee family has somewhere safe to live, as well as urgent humanitarian assistance including food, water, protection, education and medical care,” the report reads in part.
Over Three Years of Deadly Conflict
Since 2013, South Sudan has been submerged in a deadly civil war between government forces and militia groups led by the former South Sudanese vice-president Riek Machar.
The violence broke out in December 2013 when the current President of South Sudan Salva Kiir sacked his first VP Machar over claims of plotting a coup against him.
The violence quickly degenerated from a conflict between the two armed groups to a full-blown civil war, with numerous efforts by leaders from neighboring countries to quell the war being frustrated by individual interests from the two warring sides.
Thousands of people have died in the conflict and millions forced to flee the country.