Declaring that the immediate survival and long-term well-being of Sudan's 15 million children are at stake, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has pledged to invest in the social services of Africa's largest country and roll out nationwide projects following agreements between the government and rebels in the south.
"We hope both sides will soon conclude the comprehensive North-South peace agreement that all of Sudan so badly needs," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said, urging donors to commit new resources now so that major additional efforts can be launched as soon as peace is formally declared.
The Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) yesterday initialled three protocols on political and power sharing issues, a move hailed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan as "a major step forward" towards ending two decades of war that have left millions dead, injured or homeless.
UNICEF noted that conflict still continued in the western region of Darfur, where one million people have been uprooted from their homes and thousands killed in fighting between Arab militias and black African Sudanese.
Referring to the agreements in the southern conflict, UNICEF said it was ready to help the Sudanese people seize the opportunities of peace, including much-needed advances in health, education and clean water at the community level.
Thousands of children separated from their families and children recruited into armed forces will need special protection, while major movements of displaced people and returning refugees are also expected in a challenging and complex environment, it added.
"We are hopeful that Sudan's natural wealth will be harnessed to the needs of children instead of war in the very near future," Ms. Bellamy said.