Independence Day presents opportunity to put South Sudan’s children first

Juba, 5 July, 2017: Ahead of South Sudan’s Independence Day, aid and development agency World Vision is calling for peace and an end to four years of violence.

“Last year we saw bloodshed. This is the very last thing the country needs. As we approach the sixth year anniversary of independence, we urge the parties to the conflict to seek reconciliation and put the future of South Sudan’s children first,” says Perry Mansfield, National Director for World Vision in South Sudan.

The world’s youngest country gained independence from Sudan in 2011 ending Africa’s longest running civil war. But the celebration was over all too quickly; less than three years later, violence erupted in South Sudan once again. This has severely affected agriculture leaving half the country’s population without enough to eat.

Children sift through the dirt for leftover kernels of maize from a monthly food distribution at Bidibidi Refugee Settlement in Uganda

Children sift through the dirt for leftover kernels of maize after a monthly food distribution at Bidibidi Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda.

Violence and hunger has displaced two million people within South Sudan and forced a further 1.8 million people to seek refuge in neighboring Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

“It is difficult to find things to celebrate on this Independence Day,” said Mansfield. “Children continue to be exposed to unimaginable violence. A million children under age five are acutely malnourished. Without urgent assistance, death is the likely scenario.”

Twelve-year-old John, a South Sudanese refugee now living in Uganda, is also urging his countrymen to put their differences aside. “People must see each other as their brother or sister. If they have disagreements, they must be discussed and worked out. Young children must learn that violence is not the answer.”

“World Vision still believes South Sudan can be a peaceful and prosperous nation. But in order for that to happen, there must be increased efforts by all to end the conflict, tackle the hunger crisis, and to address the root causes contributing to instability in South Sudan,” said Mansfield.

World Vision is on the ground assisting vulnerable families in South Sudan and refugees in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. It has delivered food aid to almost a million people in South Sudan so far this year and is implementing critical child protection programmes and training in conflict resolution so the next generation can resolve disputes peacefully.