GENEVA / KHARTOUM, 27 June 2014 - The current IDP and refugee crisis in Sudan is manifesting itself clearly as a children’s crisis, with up to 70 per cent or more of people on the move being children; active conflict in nine of the country’s 18 states; and more than a hundred locations with people in need of humanitarian assistance. Since the beginning of the year, the Darfur region alone has seen 267,600 new IDPs.
UNICEF is witnessing, on a daily basis, children in acute need of humanitarian assistance in constantly shifting locations. Being on the move, in the middle of conflict, and huddling together in makeshift shelters with limited or no access to essential services can spell death, disease and disability for children in any combination, said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Sudan Representative, in Geneva today.
The crisis in Darfur already has a decade-long history since the onset in 2003, and neither the Comprehensive Peace Agreement from 2005 or the secession of South Sudan in 2011 have entailed any positive transformations in Sudan toward a peaceful and cohesive society. As long as conflict prevails, there will be victims, and UNICEF is concerned since the most vulnerable victims of warfare and displacement continue to be children.
Multiple crises, underfunded response Sudan is a theatre of conflict and crisis in which the number of people on the run changes day by day. Keeping up with new developments, humanitarian needs and funding needs is a daily challenge for UNICEF and its partners on the ground. As a key player in the emergency response for children, UNICEF is the custodian of significant sums of donor contributions, but the needs are overwhelming.
In addition to humanitarian crises, Sudan struggles with a legacy of problems derived from underinvestment in the social sectors, evidenced above all in a silent malnutrition crisis. About one in three children suffers from stunting (low height for age); a condition caused by chronic malnutrition which can have life-long implications for children, particularly in their mental abilities.
Ways forward for Sudan – dare to care Sudan is where Africa meets the Middle East and where new beginnings, a new social contract, and new models of equitable, socio-economic development could be forged. UNICEF notes already some positive developments, e.g. in the private sector with domestic production of essential commodities for children (PlumpyNut for malnourished children), and in communities where the hard work to change social norms and harmful traditional practices is taking place, not least with the Sudanese campaign to end female genital cutting.
However, a full, new beginning for Sudan will require bold leadership at all levels, to put an end to conflict and to build consensus and traction around an agenda for national development. Making a clarion call for children, Mr Cappelaere urged an all-out effort to stop the conflicts in Sudan.
Children have no place, no role and no responsibility in armed conflict. Conflict deprives them of their childhoods and puts their futures in jeopardy. I am appealing today, on behalf of every child in Sudan, to the parties in every armed conflict on Sudanese territory to lay down their weapons and forge peace. I am appealing also to the international community to help Sudan overcome its crisis and create a sustainable future for the country’s children. Let us not allow the children of Sudan to become a forgotten crisis. Instead, let us dare to care.
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