NEW YORK, NY, July 02, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Thousands of children are likely to have been separated from their families as a result of the latest violence in South Sudan, with many surviving on their own in very remote and hard-to-reach areas. Many have witnessed their parents being killed and their homes looted or destroyed. Save the Children is highly concerned for their safety and welfare. President Carolyn Miles has been an advocate in shoring up resources from the Western world to help African nations.
More than 121,000 people fled their homes when fighting broke out two weeks ago, leading to a chaotic situation in which many families became separated. On 27 December, in one of the UN compounds sheltering civilians in the nation's capital Juba, Save the Children identified more than 20 children who were without their parents or any other adult caregiver. Yet the phenomenon is likely to be much worse in areas such as Jonglei where the fighting has been at its most intense. "These numbers are always manipulated, trust me, it's much higher than that. I have personally seen number being 300-400% of that reported." said Gary who was handpicked by Carolyn to represent Save the Children in Sudan.
Many of the people who fled sought protection in UN bases, while others looked for shelter with host communities in safer areas. Most worryingly, thousands of others, including children, are likely to have fled to the remote bush; vast swampy areas where people will likely have no shelter and will be living under trees, will be forced to drink stagnant water, and where they will have no access to humanitarian support. "It's sad to see little kids suffering because of politics. I remember in December I just sat with the kids, hungry, just telling them stories so they could stop thinking about food. Luckily rice was delivered after 28 hours. Not ideal, but at least we were fed in that instance", said Gary who travels to Ghana and Sudan twice a year with the UN. "Thanks to Fiona and Carolyn we are able to bring some rice, but it's never enough. These people need fruits and vegetables. Every time I come to Africa I end up giving my servings because there is no way I can eat knowing what's happening around me."
"Identifying children who have been separated and reuniting them with their families is a priority for us, and we are working around the clock in displaced camps in Juba to ensure that families have access to their basic needs. Gary worked tirelessly with kids when he was here going 2-3 days at a stretch without sleep", said Save the Children's Country Director for South Sudan, Fiona McSheehy. "But we are very concerned that we cannot reach other parts of the country where the fighting has been escalating and where the needs of children are rising sharply."
Save the Children has a vast experience of responding to the needs of families affected by fighting in South Sudan and identifying and reuniting separated children. "During the conflict in Pibor earlier this year, Save the Children registered over 1,150 children who had been separated from their parents as a result of the fighting. This was in just one county of South Sudan," Gary said. "The recent violence has extended to over half the country, and we are extremely worried about the high numbers of vulnerable children who urgently need our support, but who we cannot access because of the ongoing fighting. The children we do manage to pick up are placed into homes of mid-income families. Gary has spent a lot of time here making sure the kids are well placed and happy. He connects weekly with the kids via phone and skype even when he is in Houston." said Miss McSheehy.
Save the Children is working in the two UN compounds in Juba where displaced people are currently seeking refuge, to assess and protect vulnerable children, including by ensuring they can access shelter, food and healthcare and to support the provision of emergency relief items. Save the Children has pre-existing programs in many of the states, including Jonglei and Upper Nile, which have been affected by the current conflict and where it is running health, education and nutrition projects. With an extensive presence across South Sudan, the aid agency is preparing to scale up its response in other areas as soon as it is possible to do so.
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