A network of aid groups has launched a report Wednesday recommending, among other things, that the U.N. Security Council and the Sudanese government make the protection of children a top priority in peace efforts in Sudan, as Sudanese children, particularly those in Darfur, continue to suffer severe abuse. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.
The report, released by the group Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, outlines how children in Darfur and southern Sudan experience a wide range of atrocities.
These include: forced recruitment into armed groups; rape and other sexual abuses; abduction; and denial of basic resources and services.
Watchlist's interim director, Sarah Spencer, says no matter what happens in Sudan, one fact that never changes is that the children suffer:
“Children in Sudan continue to endure some of the most inhumane treatment in the world, and that despite the end of the war in the south, and recent signs of hope for a strengthened peacekeeping force in Darfur, many Sudanese children are not faring any better than they were four years ago when the Watchlist published its first comprehensive report on Sudan," she said.
More than two decades of war between northern and southern Sudan ended at the beginning of 2005 when the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement and the Sudanese government signed a comprehensive peace deal.
Spencer says that, although there is peace in the south, there is a severe lack of basic services to support returning children and their families. For instance, only 15 percent of schools in the south have permanent structures, and there is one health center for every 79,000 people in the south.
Meanwhile, in Darfur, about 200,000 people have died and two million more have been displaced as a result of the four-year-old conflict.
Spencer says less than one-third of children in Darfur are enrolled in school, and less than half of people living in Darfur have access to health services.
A political counselor of the Canadian High Commission in Kenya, Ian McKinley, urged the United Nations Security Council to put the protection of children high on its agenda for Sudan.
He says that a Security Council resolution regarding children in armed conflict needs to be adhered to in Darfur and other parts of Sudan, and doing that requires detailed monitoring and reporting.
"For this mechanism to be effective, it is imperative that the humanitarian community has safe and unhindered access to children in need and that appropriate coordination mechanisms are put in place to ensure the collection and reporting of accurate information that ultimately can be used to halt violations against children," he explained.
Aid workers have complained that the Sudanese government often restricts their access to Darfur by delaying or refusing to issue travel permits to the area.
The report also called on the Sudanese government to make children's protection a top priority by, among other things, providing funding and resources to programs and services to help children.