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One year on for the world’s youngest nation: The future of South Sudan’s children hangs in the balance

JUBA, South Sudan, 6 July 2012 - UNICEF calls for the rights and well-being of children to be made an urgent priority in the development of the country as the one year anniversary of the independence of South Sudan approaches. With half the population under the age of 18, greater investments in children are vital for South Sudan’s growth and stability.

The country is grappling with multiple crises, from severe food insecurity, government initiated austerity measures, on-going influx of refugees, to the continued threat of conflict -- there is more need than ever to protect the rights of children of South Sudan.

"The foundation of a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan can be strong only if we invest in the country's youngest citizens.  They need to be everyone's priority so that the next generation can play an active and meaningful part in building this new nation," said Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan. "The measurement of progress must be in terms of concrete results for children.  We need to improve children’s chances to survive beyond their fifth birthday, to have a chance to go to school and to be protected from violence and conflict."

The country inherited some of the worst social indicators including high maternal and infant mortality, high rates of illiteracy and malnutrition, and very limited infrastructure, making it one of the riskiest places in the world for a child to be born.

Seventy per cent of children between 6-17 years have never set foot in a class room, and the completion rate in primary schools is barely 10 per cent, one of the lowest in the world. Girls remain particularly disadvantaged when it comes to their opportunity to education and are vulnerable to harmful social practices of early marriage and early child bearing. Despite a decrease in under five mortality, an estimated one in nine children die before their fifth birthday and twenty per cent are malnourished.

Water, sanitation and hygiene underpin many of children’s fundamental human rights and ultimately national development, but only 13 per cent have access to adequate sanitation.

In the last year, the Government with support from UNICEF and development partners have, sought to establish critically needed infrastructure in the social sector, while also prioritizing capacity building and initiating the process of reversing adverse trends in child development.
UNICEF is privileged to be associated with a number of significant policy achievements, critical to the future of the nation. Strategic frameworks have been developed in the domains of Education, Water and Sanitation, and, Justice for Children. In signing a landmark agreement, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army has reaffirmed its commitment to have no children within its ranks.

UNICEF is providing new sources of water, rehabilitating old sources and establishing a centralized data system allowing for greater information sharing. In five years, there has been a 40 per cent increase in access to improved sources of drinking water. Over the past year efforts have been intensified to ensure that children in some of the more disadvantaged schools have a friendlier learning environment, and the focus on ensuring that children remain protected from preventable diseases.

Outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan continue to have an impact on children. Since the end of 2010, more than 400, 000 South Sudanese have returned to the country from Sudan. UNICEF has been active in the reintegration efforts and is supporting a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries on the protection of separated and unaccompanied children of South Sudanese origin who have been identified in Sudan, ensuring that the interests of children remain paramount.

"Children are still bearing the brunt on many fronts and we have had to maintain a continued front line response to the humanitarian situation caused by conflict and displacement.” said Dr. Haque. "The children of this country deserve a better future and it is critical that long term predictable investment is available and translates into real gains for them.”

Note to the editors:

UNICEF has been operating in South Sudan since 1989.  The country programme addresses six major areas – Health, Nutrition, Water and Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Basic Education and Gender Equality, Child Protection, Strategic Communication and Policy, and Advocacy and Social Protection.

On the 13 July, TEDx JUBA entitled “New Nation, New Ideas” will take place for the first time in South Sudan. The event is a dynamic presentation of ideas from South Sudanese thinkers, which aims to create positive change and impact in the new nation. For more information: http://www.ted.com/tedx/events/6219
Follow us on Twitter (@unicefssudan) and Facebook (unicef south sudan).

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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For more information, please contact:
Siddartha(Sid) Shrestha, Chief of Communication, UNICEF South Sudan.
Mobile + 211(0) 925007005/955866307: 

Bismarck Swangin, Communication Officer, UNICEF South Sudan
Mobile + 211(0) 925 099 875/956687973: 




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