MONDAY, JULY 9 -- Seven years after South Sudan won its hard-fought battle for independence, the country is one of the hardest to be a child. Brutal ongoing conflict has forced 2.5 million people to flee the world’s youngest nation, and by the end of the year it is expected to rise to more than 3 million – in a country of 10.4 million seven years ago – will have sought refuge somewhere else.
“It’s indescribably miserable for children,” says Mesfin Loha, World Vision’s Country Programme Director in South Sudan. “We try to focus on people’s strength, hope and resilience, because it takes all of that for families to survive. They’re clinging to the hope that their children will have a better future.”
But right now, these children face a high risk of being forced to fight in the adult-led conflict affecting their communities, homes and families. There are an estimated 19,000 child soldiers in South Sudan, with the actual number likely being much higher.
And for those not at risk of being forcibly recruited into armed groups, the conflict poses other risks. For instance, right now, more than 1.1 million children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished. Before the violence broke out, South Sudan was already facing wide-spread food insecurity and malnutrition. Now, the country is at risk of a hunger crisis. Faced with possible starvation, parents are left with few choices but to leave.
“It’s heartbreaking. These children are the future of South Sudan. They are the hope of this country,” says Loha. “They must be allowed to live in peace without fear for their lives. They deserve the chance to go to school and grow in the loving care of their families and friends as they pursue their dreams.”
World Vision is a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision has reached more than 1 million people in South Sudan through various life-saving activities.