GENEVA - The U.N. Children’s Fund said Sudan today is home to one of the biggest children’s crises in the world. UNICEF warns conflict, displacement, and underdevelopment are putting children at risk of death, disease and disability.
In 2003, when the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region was on the global media map, two million people were displaced. Now, 10 years later, the situation in that conflict-stricken area has not substantially improved. But the crisis no longer generates headlines.
Representative in Sudan for the U.N. Children’s Fund Geert Cappelaere said 1.2 million people are still displaced and another 400,000 have become newly displaced this year. About 65 percent of these internally displaced people are under the age of 18.
He said many of these children have grown up in Darfur displacement camps. He said they are in danger of becoming a lost generation if they are unable to escape from this life.
He called the situation of most of the children dire and says children are seriously affected by a number of conflicts in the country.
The government of Sudan and rebel factions continue to fight in Darfur. But, unlike 10 years ago, he said inter-tribal clashes are growing.
“Of course, we have also still the war going on in the southern states of Sudan - in Kordofan states, Blue Nile where we have an estimated 500,000 kids we have not been able to access for the last three years. We have not been able to access because a very active conflict going on between the government of Sudan’s forces and the SPLM north, Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement army in the northern sector,” said Cappelaere.
Cappelaere said the children in these states have not been vaccinated against killer diseases for years and are at high risk. Though Sudan has been polio free since 2011, he warns this crippling disease could resurface. He said aid workers have been unable to mount polio immunization campaigns for three years in these areas of conflict.
He said chronic underdevelopment in Sudan is hitting children hard throughout the country.
“800,000 children today are acutely malnourished in Sudan. What is interesting is that a majority of these children are not in the conflict-affected areas. A majority of these children are in the east of the country that has been spared of much conflict over the last decade," Cappelaere noted. "So, the reason for that malnutrition is not conflict related. It has much more to do with an under-investment in basic services. An important, but sad reality.”
Another sad reality, he said, is that children are being deprived of education. UNESCO reports 58 million children globally are out of school, two million of them are living in Sudan.
UNICEF has spent more than $1 billion in Darfur over the past decade, but it agrees the returns from this investment are paltry. Currently, it runs more than 100 operations throughout Sudan on a shoestring budget. The agency has received less than 30 percent of the $140 million it needs to continue its life-saving programs this year.