THE executive directors of UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) have warned that children in South Sudan cannot wait any longer before the world takes action.
Both UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake and WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin met severely malnourished children and their mothers affected by the conflict in the world’s newest country last week.
“The world should not wait for a famine to be announced while children here are dying each and every day,” Dr Lake said from the devastated city of Malakal, where tens of thousands of people have taken shelter on a UN base.
“We spoke to mothers who have struggled through conflict, displacement and hunger to stop their children dying. We all have to do more, and quickly, to keep more children alive,” he said.
Both executive directors said they feared the world was allowing a repeat of what occurred in Somalia and the Horn of Africa just three years ago, when early warnings of extreme hunger and escalating malnutrition went largely unheeded until official famine levels were announced.
“WFP, UNICEF and our partners here on the ground have been working tirelessly to bring assistance to those suffering the consequences of this conflict and we are ready to do more and to reach more,” said Ms Cousin said.
“But if we are to rapidly expand our operations and save more lives, then we need more resources, and the international community has to act now,” she said.
Nearly one million children under the age of five in South Sudan will require treatment for acute malnutrition in 2014, according to UNICEF and WFP. UNICEF estimates 50,000 children could die from malnutrition in the course of this year.
Although the conflict is focused in three states of South Sudan, a staggering one in three people in the country – some 3.9 million people – face dangerous levels of food insecurity, with many of them not knowing when and how their next meal is coming.
The unremitting cycle of violence in South Sudan, which has caused the displacement of more than a million people inside the country, over half of them children, has disrupted agricultural activities as well as provision of social services, trading, and the operation of markets, causing massive loss of livelihoods.
Additionally, the lack of access to health care and safe water and sanitation facilities is putting children at a dangerously high risk of acute malnutrition. The situation is compounded by the challenges faced by humanitarian workers in reaching children and families most in need due to the ongoing fighting, lack of infrastructure, limited partners and shortages of funding.
Source: UNICEF Australia