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Ten years after onset of Darfur crisis, peace and progress a disappearing dream for children in Sudan?

As multiple new conflicts keep unfolding in Sudan and children continue to represent the majority of the affected people, UNICEF appeals to all fighting forces in Sudan to put an end to conflicts altogether.

An end to fighting, insecurity and hardship is what the children of Sudan are really waiting for, said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Representative in Sudan.

There are many drivers and complexities to the conflict in Darfur. However, there is one simple and straightforward reality that needs to be told and heard loudly: children form the majority of the more than 100,000 newly displaced; and they continue to be the majority of the internally displaced for more than ten years.

Children are hostages to a situation they had no part in creating; the impact of conflict on children's lives is acute as well as long-term; and recent events in Sudan are add-ons to an already complex national setting of multiple, concurrent emergencies and chronic underdevelopment.

In parts of Blue Nile and South Kordofan States, 165,000 children under five are still waiting for polio immunization; over 500,000 children in these areas urgently need measles vaccination. Unfortunately, their needs have not been addressed boldly enough at the table of negotiations between the Government of Sudan and SPLM-N. If they had been, a cease fire would have been a reality by now.

In Darfur, more than a million children are out of school. War has not helped the most vulnerable in Darfur over the past ten years. Spending on quality education would have a far better return on investment.

Most recently, in White Nile state, two ‘waiting centres’ - Kilo4 and Kilo10 - have been set up to receive people fleeing from hostilities in South Sudan. As of today, Kilo10 has 20,172 people, and Kilo 4 has 2003. The great majority of these people are women and children.

They form part of the close to 50,000 South Sudanese entering or re-entering Sudan since December last year. White Nile state has enough challenges as it is. Nutrition data for White Nile state reveal that more than 100,000 children under the age of five (39 per cent of that age cohort in the state) suffer from chronic malnutrition. About 20,000 suffer from acute malnutrition while 4450 suffer from life threatening severe acute malnutrition.

Like other states in Sudan, White Nile state needs massive investment, both humanitarian and development. The huge efforts required to assist the South Sudanese are a clear indication of the existing big gaps in basic social services and systems. However, working together, the Sudanese Government with national and international partners, could turn challenge into opportunity by investing in quality health services, education, drinking water, improved sanitation, and social welfare for every boy and girl.

Classified as internally displaced, refugee, vulnerable or victim, a child remains a child; in need of family care, shelter, adequate nutrition, drinking water, improved sanitation, health care and protection. UNICEF is on the ground day after day, assisting children and their families stay healthy, and stay together, so far as possible.

But better still if all these children could grow up in a country free of conflict.

UNICEF Sudan welcomes last week’s joint global launch of the Children, Not Soldiers campaign in New York by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. This campaign aims to galvanize support to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by national security forces by 2016.

Over the next two years, the Office of the Special Representative, UNICEF and partners will redouble support to all parties to the conflicts in Sudan to fully implement action plans to end and prevent the recruitment and use of armed conflict.

Ending and preventing the involvement of children in conflict is one piece of a complex puzzle, and it is an important one, but the road to peace and recovery for all children is a much longer one. Join us and dare to care for the children of Sudan whose futures lie in jeopardy as long as conflicts mar their chances to survive and thrive, said Geert Cappelaere.



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