FILE PHOTO: Sudan refugees who fled violence in Darfur region take refuge in a house near the border between Sudan and Chad in May. FILE PHOTO: Sudan refugees who fled violence in Darfur region take refuge in a house near the border between Sudan and Chad in May. 

Over 5 million children at ‘grave risk’ in Sudan as conflict escalates

More than one million children have been displaced by two months of conflict while over 5 million faces “grave risk” as situations deteriorate in Sudan, UNICEF says.

By Zeus Legaspi

Prioritize the safety and well-being of children, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday, June 15, following reports of over a million displaced children amid escalating conflict in Sudan.

In a statement, the United Nations agency said that access to humanitarian aid and lifesaving services is currently constrained, leaving over 13 million children in need of humanitarian assistance including water and nutrition.

Further, an estimated 5.6 million children in the five Darfur states face “grave risks”, with 270,000 of them newly displaced by fighting so far, UNICEF said.

The UN agency said it has received reports that over 330 children have been killed, while over 1,900 have been injured amid the fighting. “The future of Sudan is at stake, and we cannot accept the continued loss and suffering of its children,” said Mandeep O’Brien, UNICEF Representative in Sudan.

“Children are trapped in an unrelenting nightmare, bearing the heaviest burden of a violent crisis they had no hand in creating – caught in the crossfire, injured, abused, displaced, and subjected to disease and malnutrition,” she added.

UNICEF said it is ready to support in aiding the Sudanese children but it emphasized the need for unimpeded humanitarian access to “all areas where children are in desperate need.”

Darfur situation

“The situation in Darfur is especially concerning,” the UN agency said. At present, the region has a continuing communication blackout, meaning verified information is limited.

Meanwhile, in West and Central Darfur, the lack of potable water has left hundreds of thousands of children at risk of water-borne diseases and malnutrition. UNICEF said that at least 14,836 children under five years old are expected to be compounded by overall health risks, spiking malnutrition rates.

“Vaccines and supplies were looted and destroyed, placing children at significant risk of disease,” the agency said.

In East Darfur, a lack of healthcare resources, tools, and electricity led to the deaths of six children in El Daein Hospital in May.

Call for help

UNICEF maintains that it is providing urgent assistance and preserving essential services. “Lifesaving humanitarian support must be provided without delay to protect and safeguard the rights of these vulnerable children,” it said.

The agency is currently calling for US$838 million to help address the crisis – an increase of US$253 million since the conflict began in April.

“Without immediate funding commitments, the ongoing response across Sudan, including in the Darfurs, will not be able to continue to scale up to meet the urgent lifesaving needs,” the agency said. 

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16 June 2023, 11:54