15,000 children without parents or missing, five years after out-break of fighting in South Sudan

13 December 2018
Caseworker Simon Char is recording information about Falluoch Jeremia, 11, and his family. He hasn’t seen his parents in two years. Last time they saw each other was when bullets were flying in Malakal. They got separated and haven’t seen each other since. The information recorded, Simon will use to try and locate his parents. UNICEF and partners have reunified close to 6000 children since the conflict broke out in 2013. Still, over 12,000 children are waiting for family tracing and reunification.
© UNICEF/UN0256300/Ryeng
Caseworker Simon Char is recording information about Falluoch Jeremia, 11, and his family. He hasn’t seen his parents in two years. Last time they saw each other was when bullets were flying in Malakal. They got separated and haven’t seen each other since. The information recorded, Simon will use to try and locate his parents. UNICEF and partners have reunified close to 6000 children since the conflict broke out in 2013. Still, over 12,000 children are waiting for family tracing and reunification.

JUBA, South Sudan, December 13, 2018 – Fifteen thousand children remain separated from their families or missing, five years after conflict first broke out in South Sudan.  

More than four million people have been uprooted by the fighting, the majority of them children. Since the conflict began UNICEF and partners have reunited close to 6,000 children with their parents or caregivers.  

“Every reunification is the result of months and often years of work to trace missing family members in a country the size of France, but without any basic infrastructure,” said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF’s Regional Director in Eastern and Southern Africa. “The suffering children have endured during the fighting has been unimaginable, but the joy of seeing a family made whole again is always a source of hope.” 

Separated and unaccompanied children are more susceptible to violence, abuse and exploitation, which makes returning them to their parents an urgent priority. Even once reunited, many families continue to need support. Half of the reunited children – some 3,000 – are still receiving assistance from case-workers, putting the total number of children in need of support at 18,000.

A recently signed peace agreement between South Sudan’s warring parties could provide an opportunity to step up this work and other humanitarian assistance.

“There have been encouraging developments on the ground since the peace agreement was signed,” said Pakkala. “Our hope is that previously inaccessible areas will begin opening up, allowing us to deliver life-saving assistance to more people in the year ahead.”

Since the conflict started, UNICEF and partners have:

  • Provided 1.5 million children with access to education
  • Supported the released of almost 3,000 children from armed forces and groups
  • Provided 800,000 people with access to clean water
  • Reached more than 1.4 million children with psycho-social support activities
  • Screened 1.5 million children for malnutrition
  • Supported birth notification for 550,000 newborns
  • Treated 630,000 children for severe acute malnutrition
  • Vaccinated almost 6 million children

Still, five years of violence and insecurity have taken a devastating toll on children in South Sudan. An estimated 1.2 million children are acutely malnourished – the highest number since the conflict began. Some 2.2 million children are not receiving an education, giving South Sudan the highest proportion of out of school children in the world.

For 2019, UNICEF is appealing for US$ 179 million for humanitarian assistance to children.

Media Contacts

Tim Irwin

UNICEF South Sudan

Tel: +211 912 162 888

James Elder

UNICEF Nairobi

Tel: +254 715 581 222

Joe English

UNICEF New York

Tel: +1 917 893 0692

Multimedia content

Two women hold a baby as he receives a vaccine
UNICEF/UN074135/O'Shea
Sabir, 5 months, is administered an oral poliovirus vaccine in Wau, South Sudan. He has also received a combination vaccine to protect him against tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis, whooping cough and influenza.

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