Situation of women and children

Key results for children


Situation of women and children

Children of South Sudan
© UNICEF South Sudan/2011/Ohenesian
Children in South Sudan face mutliple risks that threaten their growth and development.

"Every child has an inherent right to life. It shall be the responsibility of the family and the government to promote care for the survival and development of the child." - 2008 Child Act, South Sudan

The Republic of South Sudan was established on 9 July 2011, after more than two decades of near continuous war that displaced about 4 million people, disrupted socio-economic services and systems, and imposed a heavy toll on the survival and wellbeing of the South Sudanese population, especially children. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) had enabled a period of relative stability with an Interim Constitution providing the basis for future state building.

Following a near-universal vote in favour of secession in the referendum of January 2011, the National Legislative Assembly was reconstituted and a new Government was formed, committed to forging national unity among its diverse population of over 8 million people, comprising over 60 tribes speaking as many languages.

The new republic faces many challenges. Some critical provisions of the CPA have not been implemented and continue to cause tensions with Sudan. Since October 2010, over 350,000 South Sudanese have returned home; around 300,000 people were displaced due to conflict in 2011. Children in South Sudan are exposed to an environment prone to conflict, ignited by communal strife over access to land, grazing grounds and water sources. Decades of armed conflict have affected cultural values and norms, led to widespread possession of small arms, weakened community-based systems and resulted in inadequate institutions for conflict resolution and diminished economic opportunities.

The 2010 Household and Health Survey (HHS) showed considerable improvements in the situation of children during the period 2006-2010. Infant and under-five mortality rates decreased during that period, down from 102 to 84 per 1,000 live births and 135 to 106 per 1,000 live births, respectively, while recorded measles cases decreased from nearly 2,000 to below 100. South Sudan has been polio free since 2009. The proportion of pregnant women receiving at least two doses of tetanus toxoid vaccine increased from 22 per cent to 50 per cent. Stunting rates dropped from 33.4 per cent to 25 per cent. Primary school enrolment numbers rose from 0.8 million to 1.4 million and secondary education from 15,000 to over 44,000 over the same period. Access to improved sources of drinking water increased from 48.3 per cent to 68.7 per cent and to improved sanitation facilities from 6.4 per cent to 12.7 per cent.

The maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world, reaching 2,054 per 100,000 live births, with only 14.7 per cent of women delivering with the help of skilled attendants. Birth registration is low, only 5.8 per cent of children are fully immunized and malnutrition remains above the emergency threshold. Nationwide HIV/AIDS prevalence is estimated at 3 per cent among pregnant women.

Close to 1,250,000 children eligible for primary school do not have access, with many existing schools not conducive to learning. Only 45 per cent of the 3,349 primary schools in South Sudan have access to safe water, and only 17 per cent have adequate latrines for both girls and boys.

Children face a multitude of risks, such as abductions, early marriage, recruitment into armed groups, violence, separation from families, and unexploded ordinance. Thousands of children are orphans and lack appropriate care. Inadequate education and job opportunities fuel youth involvement in conflicts.

South Sudan likely has the biggest capacity gap in Africa. Only 13 per cent of primary schools provide the full complement of grade 1-8, and the qualified teacher-to-pupil ratio is 1:117. The doctor-population ratio is roughly 1:80,000; there are only 12 qualified midwives for 340,000 women who give birth every year. The severe deficiencies of capacity and infrastructure are noted across all sectors, including access to markets and the provision of law and order.

The Republic of South Sudan presents a unique state-building challenge that cannot be addressed as a classic transition or post-conflict recovery situation.



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