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SOUTH SUDAN: Risks to children increase amid escalating violence; NGO searches for ‘window of opportunity’ to help

Source: Plan International - Mon, 23 Dec 2013 04:57 PM
Author: Jane Labous
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Children’s rights organisation Plan International has expressed concern about the escalating humanitarian situation in South Sudan, but says it is currently unable to respond due to the rising violence.

With thousands of people now fleeing fighting between rebel and government forces, there are many risks to children as they become separated from their families while on the move. Lack of water and sanitation is also a concern for displaced people.

Acting country director Resom Habtegabriel said: “It has impacted very negatively on people in these areas.

According to the UNOCHA update released today, more than 62,000 children and women have been displaced since the clashes escalated in Jonglei and Unity States.

“Our emergency response in Jonglei State at the moment is not active due to the increased insecurity. We are monitoring the situation closely with the stakeholders engaged in the humanitarian intervention in case of a window of opportunity for humanitarian access to help displaced people around the UN Camps and displaced people hiding in the bushes as well as on the run. Many civilians are on the move, leaving the country, and at the border of Uganda there is already a huge flock of people waiting to go through.”

“We have been providing water to the more than 5,000 displaced people who have sought refuge at the Catholic Church in Kator since 19th December, and we are currently preparing to jointly undertake a rapid needs assessment conducted in Awerial County of Lakes State, where there are 20,000 displaced people from Bor, Jonglei State. We are very concerned, particularly for women and children. We are constantly in touch with the ground and after Christmas we will take a strategic step to properly address the situation.”

Clashes broke out between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and others backing his former deputy Riek Machar a week ago. President Salva Kiir has accused Machar of attempting a coup.

More than 15,000 people have already arrived at the UN compound in Bor, a town in the northern state of Jonglei which has fallen to the rebels.

Across the country, an estimated 62,000 people have been displaced, according to UNOCHA.

The UN says that people from all communities are at risk, and there is an atmosphere of fear and desperation as people try to stay alive.

People are looking for safety, protection, water and sanitation facilities, says the UN.

Security forces are still deployed throughout the capital city of Juba and a curfew is still operating between 6pm and 6am.

Habtegabriel added: “Juba has been relatively quiet since last Thursday and no change is expected within the next few days, despite rumours that Juba might be attacked soon. The fighting escalated to Jonglei and Unity States and the state capitals have been taken by the opposition forces supporting Riak Machar.

"Confirmation is still needed of who controls where in the city. Efforts for peace talks have been under way but no substantial progress is made so far.”

Plan has been operating in South Sudan since 2006, focusing on food security and nutrition, education, youth livelihoods, child protection and humanitarian support.

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