July 25, 2014 (JUBA) – Heads of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Programme (WFP) said children severely malnourished and mothers affected by the South Sudanese conflict urgently need help.
- Children wait to receive a measles vaccine at the UNMISS camp in Bor, the capital of South Sudan’s Jonglei state (Photo: UNICEF)
“The world should not wait for a famine to be announced while children here are dying each and every day,” said UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake, who visited the Upper Nile state capital, Malakal, where tens of thousands are sheltered at a UN base.
“Today we spoke to mothers who have struggled through conflict, displacement and hunger to stop their children dying. We all have to do more, and quickly, to keep more children alive”, he added.
There are already fears that the world is allowing a repeat of what occurred in Somalia and the Horn of Africa just three years ago; when early warnings of extreme hunger and escalating malnutrition went largely unheeded until official famine levels were announced.
“WFP, UNICEF and our partners here on the ground have been working tirelessly to bring assistance to those suffering the consequences of this conflict and we are ready to do more and to reach more,” said WFP’s executive director, Ertharin Cousin.
“But if we are to rapidly expand our operations and save more lives, then we need more resources, and the international community has to act now.”
Nearly 1.5 million people, aid agencies say, have been forced out of their homes since violence broke out in South Sudan late last year, while over 50,000 children below five years reportedly risk dying from malnutrition this year.
“If the world fails to provide the help needed right now to accelerate and scale up life-saving food and nutrition efforts, UNICEF estimates that 50,000 children could die from malnutrition in the course of this year”, reads a statement jointly issued by WFP and UNICEF.
At least 3.9 million people in South Sudan risk facing starvation, which could hit “catastrophic” levels, if peaceful negotiations to end fighting is not concluded, the United States warned.
Members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Friday described the “catastrophic” food insecurity situation in South Sudan as being the “worst” in the world. Additionally, the lack of access to health care and safe water and sanitation facilities is reportedly putting children at a dangerously high risk of acute malnutrition.