About 62 percent of the refugees fleeing the conflict are children, and 75,000 are completely unaccompanied by any parents or families, making them extremely vulnerable to various types of exploitation. Both sides in the ongoing civil war are known to recruit and employ child soldiers.
“The horrifying fact that nearly one in five children in South Sudan has been forced to flee their home illustrates how devastating this conflict has been for the country’s most vulnerable,” said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. In addition to the refugees who have left South Sudan for surrounding countries, over 1 million people are physically displaced within the country itself.
Nearly 75% of South Sudanese children do not attend school, the highest proportion in the world.
South Sudan’s civil war began when the current president accused his vice president of instigating a failed coup in 2013, although fighting has been a regular occurrence in South Sudan since its independence from Sudan in 2011. Despite a peace treaty signed in 2015 between the belligerents, fighting has continued.
The United Nations has had a military peacekeeping mission in South Sudan since 2011, called the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Despite their efforts at maintaining security, the war, and associated humanitarian crisis, continues.
“No refugee crisis today worries me more than South Sudan,” said Valentin Tapsoba, the Africa Bureau Director of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. UNICEF has appealed for $181 million to help mitigate the refugee emergency, which is only 52% funded. A similar funding request from the UN’s refugee commissioner for $781.8 million is only 11% funded.
The war in South Sudan is showing no sign of slowing down or stopping. As SOFREP’s Derek Gannon reported in 2014 “Any way these warring factions slice it, this is just a slow-motion genocide, both bloody and archaic. In the end, one group will raise a bloody, clenched fist in victory, and their warlord will have never gotten the blood anywhere near his hands.
Image courtesy of UNHCR