The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said 15,000 children remain separated from their families or missing, five years after conflict first broke out in South Sudan.
UNICEF said more than four million people have been uprooted by the fighting in the country, the majority of them children.
Since the conflict began, UNICEF and its partners have reunited close to 6,000 children with their parents or care givers. It said each reunification is the result of months and often years of work to trace missing family members.
UNICEF noted that separated and unaccompanied children are more susceptible to violence, abuse and exploitation, which makes returning them to their parents an urgent priority. Even once reunited, many families continue to need support, with half of the reunited children still receiving assistance from case workers.
UNICEF said a recently signed peace agreement between South Sudan’s warring parties could provide an opportunity to step up this work and other humanitarian assistance. However, the Fund stressed that five years of violence and insecurity have taken a devastating toll on children in South Sudan.
An estimated 1.2 million children are acutely malnourished – the highest number since the conflict began. Some 2.2 million children are not receiving an education, giving South Sudan the highest proportion of out-of-school children in the world.
Since the conflict started, UNICEF and its partners have provided 1.5 million children with access to education, supported the released of almost 3,000 children from armed forces and groups, and reached more than 1.4 million children with psycho-social support activities. It also screened 1.5 million children for malnutrition, treating some 630,000 children for severe acute malnutrition-UNICEF