In Sudan, population displacement is becoming a children’s crisis
Population displacement in Sudan is gaining a momentum and magnitude that resemble the onset of the crisis in Darfur in 2003 and 2004. The trends are alarming and UNICEF has particular cause for concern.
As populations get displaced across the Darfur region and elsewhere, one salient feature of the crisis stands out: 70 per cent or more of the people displaced are children.
This is an extreme situation that places a serious responsibility on all of us. We need to remind ourselves that children deserve a first call on resources, especially in emergencies. We must sound the alarm and contain the effects of this crisis on children’s lives and futures, said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Representative in Sudan.
In North Darfur alone, according to reports from the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), of the 379,000 people affected by conflict in ten localities, more than 265,000 are under 18 and over 66,000 are children are under five.
The State Ministry of Social Welfare and the State Council on Child Welfare are stepping up to the daunting task of assessing the situation of these children and their humanitarian needs, including family tracing. So far, 11 out of 161 unaccompanied children have been reunited with their families while the remaining children await news about their loved ones.
UNICEF, along with local organizations, fear that the number of affected children will increase over the coming weeks and months. And as children get displaced, they face increased risk of violence, abuse and exploitation.
So far, there have been sporadic reports of children killed, rape of children, and maiming and abduction of children. The verification process is on-going, but based on experience, such reports tend to represent the tip of an iceberg as affected children are terrified to report on what happened to them.
We must insist that all children, all across Sudan, be treated as zones of peace. They have no place in any conflict, they belong at home with their families and in school, said Geert Cappelaere.