‘Prioritize Education or Jeopardize the Future of South Sudan’ - World Vision and Save the Children warn donors

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Jeremy Soulliere 203.295.5842 (M)

Fairfield, Conn. (June 15, 2015) — Today, leading international aid agencies and advocates have warned that meeting only the food, health, water and sanitation and shelter needs of children currently trapped in a protracted conflict in South Sudan means nothing if the education and child protection needs are not met.

Today, World Vision and Save the Children made a united plea to donors who will attend a pledging conference in Geneva next week to fully fund child protection and education programs in South Sudan.

Combined, education and protection are only 50 percent funded in the UN Strategic Response Plan. If donors cannot meet 100 percent cost of the plan, the agencies, who provide large amounts of aid directly to children in South Sudan, would likely not be able to fully meet education and child protection needs and fail in their mission to expand education to children currently out of school. This shortfall will mean entire generations will remain uneducated, disadvantaged, and unprepared to contribute to their society’s recovery.

“This war is taking an unimaginable toll on children,” said Perry Mansfield, National Director, World Vision South Sudan. “That any child should be killed, abused or have to use a gun is a tragedy that happens in South Sudan every day. If we are serious about stopping the violence in South Sudan, not only do we have to protect children, but we must invest in their future,” said Mansfield.

In April 2014, it was estimated that 9,000 children were associated with armed forces and groups. In May 2015, that number had risen to an estimated 13,000, an increase of 40 percent in just one year. Close to 600,000 children have been affected by psychological distress due to the violence they have seen or experienced, 400,000 children dropped out of school and it is estimated that more than one million children were out of school before the current crisis began according to the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF).

“If we are to stop the cycle of violence that appears to be pervasive throughout South Sudan, we need to take care of children, and the best ways to do this are with protection and education programs,” said Peter Walsh, Country Director, Save the Children,

Children need access to psychosocial services to address the impacts of distress and fear. Not addressing long-term stress can have lifelong impacts on learning, health, and development for a child. Efforts are required to strengthen community-based protective environments for children and secure release of children associated with armed forces and groups.

“Over $200 million in pledges from the Nairobi Conference in February is still outstanding and overall funding for the response falls short by over $1 billion, meaning vulnerable children are not receiving the life-saving assistance they need,” said Walsh.

“Last year, children told us that they spend half the amount of time in school now than before the conflict – and that school time has been replaced with work,” said Mansfield. “Emergency education programs and longer-term education must be available to all children,” he added.

Both agencies called upon the international community to act urgently to protect children affected by the conflict and ensure robust funding for education and child protection for the duration of the crisis. In May 2014, World Vision warned that if urgent action was not taken the situation would become unimaginably worse for children. Over a year later, the situation continues to deteriorate, with more children separated from their families, more children at risk of violence, more children out of school, and more recruited into armed groups.

“Donors must not lose sight on South Sudan’s long-term development. Eighteen months after the beginning of the conflict, the failure to fund protection and education programs for children will have a long-lasting effect on the future of South Sudan. Schools and health systems across the country hang in the balance,” said Walsh.

“If we are to make an impact on the course of this country, we need to put children first,” said Mansfield.

Children in the South Sudan Conflict

Since the beginning of the conflict in December 2013, over 1.5 million people have been displaced internally, including more than 800,000 children. Around 7,600 children have been registered as separated or unaccompanied and 400,000 children are out of school according to UNICEF. In May 2015, World Vision was forced to suspend its programs in Unity State and parts of Upper Nile State because of escalation in violence. UNICEF estimates that the withdrawal of humanitarian organizations from these areas is expected to impact an estimated 650,000 people. In Unity State alone, World Vision estimates that 10,000 children could be at risk of malnutrition due to lack of access and suspension of critical food and nutrition programs.

World Vision in South Sudan

World Vision has been working in South Sudan since 1989 and was one of the few aid agencies that provided emergency assistance during war to the displaced populations in what was then the Southern Sudan region of Sudan. World Vision is the largest non-government organization in South Sudan by geographic coverage - they operate emergency relief and development programs in 7 out of the 10 states in South Sudan. Over the last year, they have reached almost 700,000 people with healthcare, nutrition programs, food assistance and food security, economic development program, water and sanitation, education, peace-building, protection and basic household items.

Save the Children in South Sudan

Save the Children has worked in South Sudan for more than 20 years, and implements programs in 6 of the country’s 10 states. Our work includes child protection, education, health, nutrition, food security and livelihoods support, and child rights governance. We are assisting children and their families affected by conflict: internally displaced people (IDPs), those living in refugee camps, and people affected by severe food shortage. We work in some of the hardest to reach areas of South Sudan, doing whatever it takes to create lasting change for children. In 2014, Save the Children reached over 350,000 people in South Sudan.

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For an interview with Perry Mansfield, please contact Melany Markham +211 922 027 365 or melany_markham@wvi.org

For an interview with Peter Walsh, please contact Emmanuel Kenyi +211 922407209 or Emmanuel.kenyi@savethechildren.org

Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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