Since the latest wave of violence began in Juba at the beginning of July, the security situation across the country has deteriorated significantly.
Estimates suggest that nearly 100,000 people have crossed to Uganda* since then, while 1.61 million displaced people remain within the country*. Many of these have gone into hiding in the bush, afraid to return to their homes.
Several ambushes have been reported including in Yei where Plan International has a child sponsorship programme. Local militias have blocked roads, making the area inaccessible. We have had to suspend our work there as a result.
Although we are continuing our food distribution programmes in the areas of Lakes, Jonglei, Torit and Kapeota, security is an issue in many other parts of the country. While some calm has returned to Juba, where a ceasefire has held since 11 July, pockets of violence continue to erupt elsewhere.
Violence disrupts humanitarian response
It is estimated that many thousands of families are facing hunger and malnutrition. In addition, increasing numbers of women are being raped.
boys may be recruited into militia groups, while girls may be sexually abused
The challenge is that we don’t know the exact numbers of those affected. The security issues have meant that humanitarian workers are unable to access the worst affected parts of the country to carry out a proper assessment.
We do have an idea of the number of unaccompanied children, but again, it is only an estimate. The most recent figures suggest there are over 10,000 nationwide. In Juba, the number living on the streets is becoming increasingly apparent.
Sadly, many will be orphans as a result of the conflict. Others will have become separated from their families when fighting broke out, and others will be coming from nearby camps for internally displaced people.
These children are extremely vulnerable. Being on the streets exposes them to abuse, and exploitation. Many have to scavenge for survival. Our biggest worry is that boys may be recruited into terror gangs and militia groups, while girls may be sexually abused and exploited.
Children need care and protection
Plan International is calling for a multi-agency response to protect and care for these children. They need food, medical care and facilities to wash. A lot of them also need psychosocial support considering the violence they have witnessed and the experiences they have endured. The children also need facilities such as safe spaces where they can play, learn and start to regain a sense of normality.
Child protection and education remain a major concern across South Sudan. The number of street children in Juba is growing all the time and, if it’s happening there, we can assume it is happening in other parts of the country as well.
Based on the assessment we carried out in Torit, we know children are in desperate need of support. However, continued violence is making the humanitarian response a huge challenge.
We urgently need an end to the fighting so we can get an accurate grasp of the true numbers of children affected and help those in greatest need.
*Plan International is not responsible for content on external websites