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Dire Situation For Women, Children In South Sudan

UNICEF Study Shows Dire Situation For Women, Children In Southern Sudan

A girl born in southern Sudan is 10 times more likely to die in childbirth or pregnancy than to complete primary school, a new study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) shows as it observes Day of the African Child today.

The study, Towards a Baseline: Best Estimates of Social Indicators for Southern Sudan, found that about one in nine women dies in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to one in 100 girls who finish primary school.

Young children from southern Sudan, which has endured 21 years of civil war, are also in grave peril of dying from preventable disease. About 95,000 children aged below five, from a pool of 7.5 million young children, are estimated to have died last year. This compares to the 76,000 children under five – from a combined population of 938 million – who died in 31 industrialized countries during the same period.

The report shows that southern Sudan ranks as the worst place in the world on many health and social indicators, including chronic malnutrition rates, completion of primary school, ante-natal care and immunization rates. The situation is worst for women and children.

Since 1983 southern Sudan’s civilian population has been caught in the middle of a war between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). Between three and four million people have become internally displaced or refugees in neighbouring countries and at least two million people have been killed.

Last month representatives from Khartoum and the SPLM/A initialled three protocols aimed at ending the conflict. The two sides are expected to sign a comprehensive peace agreement within the next three months.

In a statement issued today alongside the report, UNICEF called on Sudanese authorities, civil society and international donors and non-government organizations (NGOs) to focus their relief efforts on the survival and development of children.

Bernt Aasen, UNICEF’s chief of operations for southern Sudan, said: “We know we can make huge improvements in the lives of Sudan children if the peace process is a success. This generation might be the lucky ones.”

Meanwhile, the Special Court for Sierra Leone – set up in an agreement between the UN and the Government to prosecute those who committed the worst atrocities during the West African country’s long-running civil war – also observed Day of the African Child.

Court Prosecutor David M. Crane issued a statement saying the children of Sierra Leone were the main victims of its civil war. Many were killed or injured, but others were forced into combat and coerced into committing crimes.

Mr. Crane noted that the Court’s Appeals Chamber recently handed down a landmark decision that allows people who recruited child soldiers to be prosecuted for a crime against humanity.

“There can now be justice for Sierra Leone’s children living with the horror of what they were forced to do to others,” he said.

The Day of the African Child was first observed in 1991 after the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), now known as the African Union, moved to commemorate the children killed in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976 while protesting for better education opportunities under apartheid.

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