As children starve in South Sudan, UNICEF is short on funds to provide the life-saving treatment they desperately need. Mercy Kolok, of UNICEF South Sudan, said yesterday, "We need an addition US$ 29.9 million to reach children suffering from malnutrition." The UN children's agency relies on voluntary donations.
The escalation of conflict in South Sudan since last year has forced more than a million civilians from their homes. Food is in short supply as people have lost access to their farmlands. War victims located in remote areas are experiencing the worst. Poor roads and ongoing violence make it harder for aid agencies to reach them.
Children suffer the most in times of food shortages, especially those under the age of five. Malnutrition causes lasting physical and mental damage, or even death in small children. It's a race against time. Earlier this year, UNICEF estimated that 50,000 children under the age of five would die from malnutrition in South Sudan unless they receive special nutritional foods.
UNICEF, in partnership with the World Food Programme, is rushing supplies to children in need. Foods like Plumpy'Nut, an enriched peanut paste, as well as therapeutic milk are given to children.There are at least a million children nationwide who require this type of treatment to stop the malnutrition.
Rapid Response teams consist of UNICEF and WFP staff airlifting supplies into remote areas. So far about 70,000 children have received treatment by these teams. This will increase in the days and weeks to come, pending the funding of course.
Joyce Luma, the WFP director in South Sudan, says, “The work of these teams is critical if we are to avert a hunger catastrophe. We urgently need funds and partners to be able to expand coverage and establish a fixed presence in remote areas to support food and nutrition activities if we are to have any chance of avoiding an impending disaster.”
South Sudan needs a peace plan to allow people to return to their homes and for crops to be grown again. Tragically, food shortages are going to persist for some time because of the damage that has been sustained. UNICEF and other aid agencies need the funding to prevent a full-scale famine.
UNICEF USA is appealing for donations for South Sudan. They have set up a donation page.