South Sudan’s hunger crisis exacerbates threats to lives of 3.1M children: Officials

South Sudan’s hunger crisis exacerbates threats to lives of 3.1M children: Officials

Children urgently in need of lifesaving and life-sustaining protection, says German envoy

By Benjamin Takpiny

JUBA, South Sudan (AA) - Increased food insecurity in South Sudan is exacerbating threats to the lives of 3.1 million children in urgent need of protection, said officials.

Esther Ikere Ladu, South Sudan’s Undersecretary of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, said the lack of food has pushed children to the streets.

“What is pushing children out onto the streets is (the lack of) food and (then) violence at home, because you find that during the conflict (in South Sudan), some mothers are left widows and some decide to get married, and the home might not be conducive for the child,” Ladu said.

She was speaking at a high-level event organized this week by the Child Protection Area of Responsibility, Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster, Plan International, World Vision and Save the Children which brought together government officials, donors, humanitarian organizations and local civil society groups.

Child protection and food security practitioners in South Sudan are urging donors, the government and the humanitarian community to ensure that the food security crisis does not threaten the lives and protection of girls and boys.

“It is imperative to highlight that the multiple crises in South Sudan are a child protection crisis. Conflict, economic, climate induced shocks and displacement and particularly food insecurity increase the risk and vulnerability for sexual and gender-based violence, child marriage, abductions and mental health issues,” said Obia Achieng, Deputy Representative, UNICEF South Sudan as lead of the Child Protection Area of Responsibility.

"We must embrace innovation and strengthen partnerships and collaborations across sectors to realize gender and age-responsive strategies for children's and girls' multisectoral needs. It is essential to unite in building a consensus and ensuring a minimum package of services that safeguards our children and girls in times of food crises and beyond," said Mohamed Kamal, Country Director for Plan International South Sudan.

The event is part of an ongoing global collaboration between child protection and food security organizations supported by the German Federal Foreign Office under the Joining Forces for Child Protection in Emergencies Project.

“Germany supports strengthening the collaboration between child protection and food security partners to better address the challenges faced by children in South Sudan. Today’s event underlines the need for the government of South Sudan to invest more resources into tackling food insecurity to improve the protection needs of the children of South Sudan – the Land of Great Abundance,” Leon Kohl, First Secretary at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Juba, said during the launch of a new advocacy brief.

“An estimated 6.1 million people will be or are facing protection risk and violations in 2023, with 3.1 million children urgently in need of lifesaving and life-sustaining protection,” Kohl said.

He revealed that 3.3 million children lived in households that lack the consistent ability to buy enough food.

“Child protection services are shocking, 2.8 million school-aged children are out of school, 46% of children are engaged in child labor and one of every two girls are married before the age of 18,” he added.

Pornpun Rabiltossaporn, Save the Children's South Sudan Country Director, called on humanitarian actors, the government and donors to address children’s protection needs to safeguard them from hunger.

“We are here today to bring about this spotlight on how these issues are linked and how we together as humanitarian and development actors can jointly and effectively bring about a solution for the children and the community we service,” she said.

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