UNICEF and partners step up their response to the needs of children displaced by Sudan’s Abyei Crisis
JUBA, SOUTHERN SUDAN, - A large scale humanitarian relief operation is underway in southern Sudan to provide for the needs of an estimated 100,000 civilians displaced by the recent clashes in the disputed territory of Abyei between the Sudan Armed forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
With children thought to constitute up to half of those forced to flee the fighting, UNICEF and its partners have played a key role in the emergency response, providing water, hygiene and sanitation supplies, along with nutrition, education and child protection services to address the needs of the most vulnerable children and their families.
“UNICEF has been at the forefront of the response and has swiftly activated its contingency plan for addressing the humanitarian needs of people, particularly children and women, affected by this crisis,” said Dr. Yasmin Haque, Director for UNICEF Southern Sudan Area Programme.
Nearly two thirds of the displaced population is thought to have moved south from Abyei into four Southern Sudan states: Warrap, Northern and Western Bahr-e-Ghazal and Unity.
Even in normal times, this is a population with few resources to draw on. For example, health surveys conducted prior to the crisis revealed high levels of malnutrition among young children, a situation that is now certain to be aggravated. This has prompted UNICEF and nutrition partners such as ACF, Medair, GOAL and MSF to begin the immediate screening of young children to identify and treat cases of severe and moderate malnutrition.
To counter the risk of outbreaks of measles or other communicable disease in the cramped sites where displaced people have gathered, WHO and UNICEF with other partners are supporting mass immunization programmes for young children. So far, over 1900 children under the age of five have received measles and polio vaccination while primary health care supplies have been prepositioned to support treatment of common children illnesses at health centres.
Shelter remains a big challenge especially with the heavy downpours of the current rainy season. In places like Mayen Abum, displaced people have taken shelter in a school causing disruption to classes for the children there. In response, tarpaulin sheets and other essentials such as blankets, soap, kitchen kits, sleeping mats and treated mosquito nets are being distributed. 2,700 households have received these kits in one location -- Turalei -- alone. UNICEF has prepositioned stocks to cover 59,000 beneficiaries.
Ensuring the availability of clean water supplies is of paramount importance. Water points are being repaired and fuel provided for distribution systems to provide clean drinking water supplies. Construction of communal latrines has been initiated, while hygiene messages are being disseminated through community radios and other means.
Addressing the risks faced by the most vulnerable displaced children is another top priority. In Warrap State, UNICEF and partners have identified and registered a total of 70 separated children and one unaccompanied child. Meanwhile, at Mayen Abun village, an estimated 400 children are participating in organized recreational and pyscho-social activities. Efforts to accelerate the family reunification process in other areas are underway.
In conflict situations, play and learning activities have a proven ability to help children who have been exposed to violence and conflict. Child friendly spaces have already been established which will allow over 400 children to be provided with psychosocial support. Temporary learning spaces bring immediate benefits too. UNICEF and partner agencies such as Interos and Save the Children are working to assess the educational needs of IDP and host communities, and to identify teachers and sites to establish.
The relief effort faces major logistical and other challenges. Delivery of humanitarian aid is being hampered by the volatile security situation and the poor state of roads, some of which have been washed away by the heavy rains. The prevailing shortage of fuel for transporting the supplies is another important worry.
“This is not going to be easy and it’s probably not going to be quick,” said UNICEF Sudan Representative Nils Kastberg. “Given the likely evolution of the situation, we are looking at a necessary response over a minimum of six months. But this is the sort of challenge that UNICEF and its partners have confronted in many parts of the world, including Sudan, in order to meet the vital needs of children and women affected by crisis. And we will do so again.”
Note to Editors
Southern Sudan is due to become independent, July 9 following a historic referendum in which the Southerners overwhelmingly voted for secession.he referendum was part of a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end the two decade long war between the North and the South.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
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