World Bulletin / News Desk
The United Nations children's fund (UNICEF) has warned that some 50,000 children risk dying of malnutrition this year in war-ravaged South Sudan.
"Children have become extremely vulnerable to malnutrition, especially [those] under five [years old]," Doune Porter, UNICEF's chief of strategic communications in South Sudan, told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
"It is extremely serious. If we are not able to reach them with interventions, we estimate that 50,000 will die of malnutrition this year," she said.
"UNICEF also estimates that it [cases of malnutrition] will double this year, with a quarter of a million children now severely malnourished," said Porter.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked vice president, Riek Machar, of leading a failed coup attempt against his regime.
The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, with the U.N. estimating that some one million South Sudanese have been displaced by the violence.
Porter estimated that 51 percent of the country's displaced were children under the age of 15.
"Children are extremely vulnerable, living in very crowded camps," she said.
"We traced and registered 3000 children separated from their families, but the figures are many more than that," she added. "We are trying to unite them with their families."
"We provide mobility to make them reach their families, providing transport from one part of the country to another to rejoin their families," said the UNICEF official.
"In some cases we have children completely unaccompanied and arrange for them to stay with other families," she added.
Porter stressed that children remained the most vulnerable victims of the crisis.
"They have been killed, injured, maimed, and some orphaned. They lost their homes and their livelihoods [were] completely disrupted," she said.
"Some witnessed their parents being killed and are harrowingly traumatized already," she added.
According to Porter, a main threat to children – especially those staying in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) – is pneumonia.
"Pneumonia is the single largest cause of death in South Sudan among children. And with the cold and wet conditions of the IDP camps, it is a very serious threat," she said.
Porter said children were threatened with other diseases as well, such as malaria and diarrhea.
"UNICEF is responding with clean water and sanitation with elevated latrines so that sewage and flood water don't mix in the rains," she said.
"We are also providing vaccination campaigns with the World Health Organization and other health services to newborn babies and their mothers," Porter asserted.
She added: "We have created a child-friendly situation in the camps. We also give education on life skills in terms of healthy living."
The UNICEF official decried the practice of recruiting child soldiers to fight in armed conflicts.
"Children are continuously being recruited into the armed forces," she said. "We have a line of communication with the government and are advocating with them to eliminate the recruitment of children."
"We're also trying to establish communication with the opposition to eliminate children [soldiers] from their ranks," Porter added.Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Mayıs 2014, 12:09