Kampala — The United Nation Children's Fund South Sudan is seeking donor support of up to US$88.4 million to help meet the needs of close to three million vulnerable women and children affected by conflict and displacement in the newly independent nation.
Without funding support the agency says it will be unable to continue its emergency humanitarian assistance for child health, water, sanitation and hygiene programs, targeted at stemming the country's continuing nutrition crisis.
The agency says spending will be focused on these key areas, with a planned $22.3 million needed for nutrition, $21.6 million for water, sanitation and hygiene and $18.1 million for health.
The situation in South Sudan was highlighted in a report as part of UNICEF's global launch of Humanitarian Action for Children for 2013 in Geneva on Friday, where it appealed for nearly $1.4 billion to meet the urgent needs of children in 45 countries and regions gripped by conflict, natural disasters and other complex emergencies.
In a press release extended to Sudan Tribune following the launch, the director of UNICEF's emergency programme, Ted Chaiban, said children in South Sudan faced numerous challenges as a result of the ongoing humanitarian situation, which is further compounded by the unresolved political stand-off between South Sudan and Sudan, inter-communal conflict and flooding.
"Children are extremely vulnerable in emergencies, often living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions, at high risk of disease, violence, exploitation and neglect," he said.
The number of people in need of food assistance in South Sudan has doubled from 1.2 to 2.4 million due to the deterioration in food security, resulting in severe malnutrition at persistently high levels.
The influx of refugees from Sudan and regional insecurity continues to have a major impact on humanitarian operations in South Sudan, UNICEF said. Over 175,000 refugees from Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states have fled to Upper Nile and Unity states in South Sudan following the worsening conflict between the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and the Sudanese government.
Nearly 170,000 people were displaced following inter-communal fighting and insecurity, with close to 100,000 people also displaced from the oil-contested Abyei region since May 2011.
South Sudan remains the world's most challenging country for childbirth. The Household Health Survey in 2010 in Sudan showed one out of every nine children dies before birth, while only 10% of children are fully immunised and an estimated 200,000 children under five remain at risk from malnutrition.
UNICEF says the alarming statistics from South Sudan call for a joint response from governments, UN agencies, NGOs and communities to ensure children have access to basic services.
Radwan Al Fahil, a 12-year-old Sudanese refugee in Maban county in South Sudan, says he feels safe staying in the camp and is no longer living in fear.
He expressed happiness that his family now has access to food and education, adding that he considers education more important than shoes.
According to the UNICEF press release, more than 70,000 children under five were treated for severe acute malnutrition in 2012, with a million people provided access to emergency health supplies and drugs and about 300,000 children provided access to safe water.
HUMANITARIAN NEEDS HIGH
UNICEF said with ongoing conflicts in Sudan, including Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, still unresolved, humanitarian needs are likely to remain high throughout 2013, as more people decide to seek refuge in South Sudan.
Continued austerity measures in the country are also likely to negatively impact on food security, poverty levels, child mortality rates and access to education.
UNICEF says the increased numbers of refugees feeling south will require a multi-sector response to meet their immediate and core humanitarian needs.
South Sudan UNICEF representative Dr Yasmin Ali Haque says "given the increasing needs, much more has to be done to ensure that every child has the opportunity to survive and thrive, particularly children affected by emergencies".
This year UNICEF predicts it will treat 122,780 children under five suffering from severe acute malnutrition; provide 1.8 million children access to preventive and curative interventions for common childhood illnesses and provide 200,000 with emergency teaching and learning materials.
UNICEF works with children in more than 190 countries and territories and is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.