The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called on all parties in the South Sudan conflict to provide unhindered and safe access for humanitarian assistance and stop violence against children.
The agency said hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese children are at risk of death and disease.
The appeal came on the eve of Tuesday’s high-level humanitarian pledging conference for South Sudan in Oslo, Norway. The conference is being co-hosted by Norway and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The UN says more than four-million people are facing acute food insecurity. Farmers have been unable to cultivate their crops because of the conflict.
Sarah Crowe, chief of UNICEF Crisis Communications, said the situation is especially dire in the three most conflict-affected states of Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity.
“We have warned for many months now that children would face greater risk of disease and indeed malnutrition. So, right now, we have 50,000 children who could indeed die of malnutrition,” she said.
Crowe also warned of an outbreak of cholera so far affecting 78 people, including three fatalities.
“So, we are seeing a situation where the country is unraveling and this is affecting children every day. Right now, what they need is humanitarian assistance. They need their leaders to protect their lives, their rights and indeed their future.”
In a statement Sunday, UNICEF said it needs $111 million this year to respond to the needs of those affected by the conflict.
Funding requirements have increased significantly since the beginning of the year, the UNICEFsaid, and will not be able to continue with critical humanitarian programs without additional funding.
Crowe said UNICEF is hopeful that the Oslo conference will bring together some of greatest minds of the humanitarian world to try to improve access.
UNICEF has appealed to South Sudan’s warring parties to provide “unhindered and safe access for humanitarian assistance.”
Crowe said South Sudan’s warring parties must respect the agreements they have signed and stop violence against children. "And, the longer this goes on, the less chance they have of their lives being protected,” Crowe said.
UNICEF estimates more than half a million children have fled the violence since fighting began last December and more than 9,000 children have been recruited into the armed forces by both sides.