Increased Food Insecurity in South Sudan Exacerbates Threats to the Lives of 3.1Million Children in Urgent Need of Protection
Child protection and food security practitioners in South Sudan urge donors, government, and the humanitarian community to ensure that the food security crisis does not threaten the lives and protection of girls and boys.
The humanitarian community, donors, and government gathered in Juba this week to address the grave effects of South Sudan’s hunger crisis on children’s protection. Children, who make up 40 percent of the population in need of food security and livelihood support, are the most vulnerable group and at heightened risk of various negative coping mechanisms to meet their food needs. Reports of negative coping mechanisms include child marriage, hazardous child labour, family separation, and recruitment by armed forces and armed groups.
“Food security is essential for children’s development. It makes the difference between helping them thrive in the future or pushing them towards harmful coping mechanisms to survive. Children deserve to grow up in a healthy and safe environment where they can focus on their education and being children instead of having to worry about what they will eat next,” said Jean-Loic Guieze, Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster Coordinator, led by WFP and FAO.
Girls in particular face multiple risks during food crises. Adolescent girls of working age face higher barriers to accessing livelihood opportunities and life saving and protective services. In times of crisis and food shortage, girls are more likely to see their education cut short and be forced into situations of hazardous work, child marriage, or sexual exploitation and abuse.
As the food security situation in the country continues to deteriorate, with almost 8 million people food insecure, child protection proponents are bracing for another year of rises in child protection cases, including cases of sexual and gender-based violence, child labour, unaccompanied and separation children. The Annual Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict reported a 135 percent increase in grave violations against children in 2022, with humanitarian actors reporting an overall increase of 8 percent in the number document child protection cases. Many more cases of child protection concerns go undocumented.
“It is imperative to highlight that the multiple crises in South Sudan are a child protection crisis. Conflict, economic, climate induced shocks and displacement and particularly food insecurity increase the risk and vulnerability for sexual and gender-based violence, child marriage, abductions and mental health issues,” said Obia Achieng, Deputy Representative, UNICEF South Sudan as lead of the Child Protection Area of Responsibility.
Despite the documented impact of food insecurity on children’s protection, food security and child protection practitioners often lack the capacity, resources, and strategies needed to address these issues. Donors, UN agencies, and partners discussed solutions and ways forward to promote cross-sector collaboration and more effective and efficient integrated humanitarian responses.
"We must embrace innovation and strengthen partnerships and collaborations across sectors to realize gender and age-responsive strategies for children's and girls' multisectoral needs. It is essential to unite in building a consensus and ensuring a minimum package of services that safeguards our children and girls in times of food crises and beyond," said Mohamed Kamal, Country Director for Plan International South Sudan.
The high-level event was organized by the Child Protection Area of Responsibility, Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster, Plan International, World Vision, and Save the Children and brought together government, donors, humanitarian organizations, and local civil society groups. The event is part of an ongoing global collaboration between child protection and food security organisations supported by the German Federal Foreign Offices under the Joining Forces for Child Protection in Emergencies Project.
“Germany supports strengthening the collaboration between child protection and food security partners to better address the challenges faced by children in South Sudan. Today’s event underlines the need for the Government of South Sudan to invest more resources into tackling food insecurity to improve the protection needs of the children of South Sudan – the Land of Great Abundance,” said Mr. Leon Kohl, First Secretary at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Juba.
The event culminated in the launch of a new advocacy brief between the Child Protection Area of Responsibility and Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster which draws attention to the interlinkages between food insecurity and children’s protection concerns. The brief provides a series of recommendations for key actors, including donors, child protection and food security actors, and national government.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work in South Sudan visit: www.unicef.org/southsudan