Fighting in Sudan rapidly worsening an already dire humanitarian situation for children, warn UNICEF, Save the Children and World Vision
KHARTOUM, 26 April 2023 - As violent clashes in Sudan continue, UNICEF and the child-focused NGOs World Vision and Save the Children are highlighting the danger to children if the current ceasefire is not respected by all parties. Millions of vulnerable girls and boys need immediate humanitarian assistance, and all children need to be protected from harm.
At least nine children have reportedly been killed, and more than 50 injured during fighting that erupted on 15 April 2023.
The hostilities are also causing displacement and further exposing children to potential grave violations, including recruitment and use by armed groups, as well as sexual violence.
According to the World Health Organization, healthcare has been severely affected by the violence, with one-third of Sudan’s healthcare facilities no longer functioning, depriving children and their families of access to essential healthcare.
The cold chain that keeps vaccines viable has been affected by constant cuts in power and fuel – putting at risk the lives of millions of children in a country where vaccination rates were already falling and where children face regular disease outbreaks. Millions of under-vaccinated or zero-dose children will miss out on life-saving vaccinations, exposing them to deadly diseases such as measles and polio.
“Children are at risk of dying or suffering physical and developmental harm if they do not get access to food and nutrition assistance,” said Emmanuel Isch, World Vision Sudan Country Director. “Without peace, delivering food assistance and nutrition support to extremely vulnerable girls and boys and their communities becomes much more difficult.”
Before the start of the current conflict, humanitarian needs in Sudan were acute and worsening, with children being the most vulnerable. Some 15.8 million people required humanitarian assistance, including more than 8.5 million children. Sudan has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world. The crisis has disrupted lifesaving treatment for an estimated 50,000 children suffering Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and who are currently enrolled in treatment programmes. Those children could die and malnutrition rates will worsen unless aid rapidly restarts.
“Children are bearing the brunt of the conflict in Sudan,” said Mandeep O’Brien, UNICEF Representative in Sudan. “They are dying, and their futures are being taken away from them. The impacts of preventing vulnerable children from receiving health, protection and education services will last a lifetime. The fighting must stop so that we can urgently better reach all vulnerable children wherever they are.”
"Even before the current crisis, 7 million children in Sudan were not in school and 2.7 million children were living with malnutrition, said Arshad Malik, Country Director for Save the Children in Sudan. “The full damage to health facilities and schools is still unknown. We urgently need to ensure all children have access to food, water and medical care - their lives are at risk."
School closures have forced millions out of their classrooms - leaving one in three girls and one in four boys unable to learn. Children were also struggling with poor-quality education. Some 70 per cent of ten-year-olds are unable to read.
The three organisations are deeply concerned about the impact of prolonged conflict on children and urgently call upon all parties to the conflict and the international community to do more to protect children in Sudan, including:
- Maintaining and respecting the ceasefire, and ensuring that humanitarian support can be restored. Humanitarian activities have been interrupted in many states due to widespread violence and insecurity. World Vision, UNICEF and Save the Children facilities are among those that have been broken into and supplies stolen. All parties to the conflict should guarantee the safety of humanitarians and allow them to reach children and their families with urgent health, nutrition, protection, and education services, without fear of violence or obstruction.
- All parties to the conflict should embrace peace for children in Sudan and reopen schools. Schools are not just learning spaces for children, but also safe spaces that protect them from abuse and exploitation, including recruitment from armed groups. For every day that children remain out of school, the chance of them ultimately returning are low, especially for girls. The learning crisis in Sudan is becoming a generational catastrophe and requires urgent action.
- All parties should protect children and prevent the recruitment and use of children. The recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups lead to severe, long-lasting exposure to physical and psychological traumatic events.