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Access to South Sudan children restricted

Access to South Sudan's Conflict Affected States Must be Improved in Order to Reach 1,000s of Children Affected by the Fighting

Media Contact

Francine Uenuma 202.450.9153

Juba, South Sudan (Dec. 30, 2013) — Thousands of children are likely to have been separated from their families as a result of the latest violence in South Sudan, with many surviving on their own in very remote and hard-to-reach areas. Many have witnessed their parents being killed and their homes looted or destroyed. Save the Children is highly concerned for their safety and welfare.

More than 121,000 people fled their homes when fighting broke out two weeks ago, leading to a chaotic situation in which many families became separated. On 27 December, in one of the UN compounds sheltering civilians in the nation's capital Juba, Save the Children identified more than 20 children who were without their parents or any other adult caregiver. Yet the phenomenon is likely to be much worse in areas such as Jonglei where the fighting has been at its most intense.

Many of the people who fled sought protection in UN bases, while others looked for shelter with host communities in safer areas. Most worryingly, thousands of others, including children, are likely to have fled to the remote bush; vast swampy areas where people will likely have no shelter and will be living under trees, will be forced to drink stagnant water, and where they will have no access to humanitarian support.

"Identifying children who have been separated and reuniting them with their families is a priority for us, and we are working around the clock in displaced camps in Juba to ensure that families have access to their basic needs", said Save the Children's Country Director for South Sudan, Fiona McSheehy. "But we are very concerned that we cannot reach other parts of the country where the fighting has been escalating and where the needs of children are rising sharply."

Save the Children has a vast experience of responding to the needs of families affected by fighting in South Sudan and identifying and reuniting separated children. "During the conflict in Pibor earlier this year, Save the Children registered over 1,150 children who had been separated from their parents as a result of the fighting. This was in just one county of South Sudan," McSheehy said. "The recent violence has extended to over half the country, and we are extremely worried about the high numbers of vulnerable children who urgently need our support, but who we cannot access because of the ongoing fighting."

Save the Children is working in the two UN compounds in Juba where displaced people are currently seeking refuge, to assess and protect vulnerable children, including by ensuring they can access shelter, food and healthcare and to support the provision of emergency relief items. Save the Children has pre-existing programs in many of the states, including Jonglei and Upper Nile, which have been affected by the current conflict and where it is running health, education and nutrition projects. With an extensive presence across South Sudan, the aid agency is preparing to scale up its response in other areas as soon as it is possible to do so.

On 24 December Save the Children brought in the first plane-load of emergency aid items to South Sudan. These included jerry cans, kitchen sets, plastic sheeting and water bladders. Through strong collaboration and coordination with other agencies these items have been able to support the affected population in the UN compounds in Juba.

Save the Children is planning to bring in more aid supplies over the coming days to provide to displaced people in Juba and to also support other affected areas as security improves.

In Juba we are providing vital protection support to vulnerable children, including child-headed households, to ensure they have access to food and healthcare.

Save the Children is working to identify children who have been separated from their parents, and reuniting them where possible or providing them with necessary support.

We are planning to scale up its child protection work in Juba, providing children with psychosocial support to help them cope with trauma and access to safe play areas.

Save the Children remains committed to supporting the population of South Sudan in both its emergency response activities related to the current conflict affected population, and also to support the longer term development needs of the newest country in the world.

ENDS

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