Thousands of children feared trapped in Sudan swampland
Francine Uenuma 202.450.9153
WESTPORT, Conn. (January 13, 2014 ) — Thousands of children fleeing fighting in South Sudan are believed to be trapped in swampland, unable to afford the boat fare to cross the river Nile to safety, according to Save the Children.
These children, many of whom have been separated from their families, have fled the heavy fighting around the town of Bor, Jonglei state. They are stuck in a swampy area between that town and the banks of the Nile, with no food, water or shelter, according to reports from local authorities and others who have fled the area. The area remains cut off from aid agencies because of continuing violence.
Up to 90,000 people have so far managed to scrape together the funds to cross to the relative safety of Awerial, 12 milesaway across the river from Bor, where Save the Children has started child protection activities. A third aid flight from Save the Children also arrived into South Sudan last week carrying 40 tons of cargo, including plastic sheeting, blankets and mosquito nets destined for more than 5,000 families displaced by the conflict.
Deng*, a teacher and a father of four, fled the fighting with his extended family last week and is now living under a tree in Awerial. While waiting for the boat across the river he found an eight year old girl who had lost her parents and bought her to Awerial with his family, where she is sharing what little food he can gather for his own children.
"My children used to drink milk and good food, but for the last three days we have been begging for food," he said. "Many people are sick from diarrhea and have bad coughs. We fled the guns but we are now facing new enemies - hunger and disease. I don't know if our lives will ever get better."
Conditions in the areas where displaced families have settled are difficult, but Save the Children is extremely concerned about the fate of those children on the other side of the river with no access to support.
Martha*, 17, is living with her family in Awerial after leaving Bor several days ago. "There are many people still stuck on the other side of the river because they don't have any money to pay for a boat," she said. "I don't know what they will do once the food they have is finished, I am worried for them."
"Although tens of thousands have used their live savings to reach Awerial where many do not have clean water, food or shelter, they are the lucky ones," said Alan Paul, Save the Children Country Director in South Sudan. "There are potentially still thousands more people on the Bor side of the river who are unable to afford the crossing."
Although Save the Children is doing what it can to meet the growing needs of families who have been forced to flee their homes, much more needs to be done. Continued fighting will have a disastrous impact on the lives of the youngest citizens of the world's youngest nation and Save the Children calls on all sides to halt hostilities and allow humanitarian aid into the worst-affected areas as a matter of urgency.