Intercomunal fights leave children at risk of acute malnutrition
By Kitab Unango
The intercommunal violence that swept through parts of South Sudan could have left thousands of children at risk of severe acute malnutrition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says.
UNICEF noted that the recent inter-communal fighting in Jonglei and Pibor Administrative Area that left more than 60 000 thousand displaced with no adequate basic supplies have had a devastating impact on children.
The effects of the fights on children included separation from parents, which will add to already thousands of malnutrition cases in the country.
“We have a report of more than 160 children who have been separated from their families,” Mads Oyen, UNICEF Chief of Operation said. “We know that at least some of them have been able to rejoin their families. The family’s separation comes from the fighting because people choose to send their children away, we can see how it affects children.”
Separation from the parents is one of the child rights violations, according to South Sudan Child Act, 2013, and other international instruments on child protection the country has rectified.
UNICEF already has a nationwide nutrition program, treating over 300 000 severe acute malnutrition cases as well as supporting health units across the country to ensure children are treated and prevented from malaria.
“The challenge for us is to maintain that programs and to make sure that children, wherever they flee, can access service, especially malnourished children,’ Oyen said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said children, women and elderly people displaced in Greater Jonglei were in dire need of humanitarian assistance as they struggle to pull through a crisis exacerbated by flooding.
“The recent fighting forced thousands of people to flee their homes into the bush or other towns and cities. Many families arrived in Bor, Pibor, Marwa Hills, and Jebel Boma to escape the violence. Those seeking safety in Bor are living in public spaces like schools and churches without adequate shelter, food, and basic supplies.
“This is further complicated by flooding in parts of Jonglei State and Greater Pibor Administrative Area, which creates logistical challenges in reaching those in need. At the same time thousands of more people are being driven from their houses by floods,” the ICRC said in a news release last week.
The fighting coupled by the floods destroyed nearly all sources of the community livelihoods in Jonglei State and Pibor Administrative Area including planted crops and animals, the source of milk to young children.
According to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in South Sudan, the loss of cattle, the children’s source of milk that protects them from malnutrition, was difficult to replace due to lack of resources.
“We simply cannot replace the calories milk given to children when livestock is taken and years’ worth of milk is lost, and we barely have sufficient resources to meet current needs,” Matthew Hollingworth, WFP Country Representative posted in mid-August.