Seventy percent of South Sudan’s children are out of school and the young country risks losing a generation that would make it harder to rebuild after conflict ended, a United Nations official said.
South Sudan, which split off from its northern neighbour Sudan in 2011, has been gripped by a four-year civil war sparked by political rivalry between incumbent leader Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.
In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, made the warning after visiting some of the areas most devastated by the war, saying:
Fore said she had visited towns in the country’s north and witnessed widespread malnutrition among children and warned: “We are heading into the dry season… we might lose up to quarter million children in South Sudan.”
An estimated tens of thousands have died in the conflict which has also displaced a quarter of the country’s population of 12 million.
The country’s economy, nearly entirely dependant on oil exports, has been left in tatters as output has been cut. Agricultural production, too, has declined as insecurity has left some times entire villages abandoned and gardens unattended.
A ceasefire deal was signed in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa last month to halt the fighting but it has been violated repeatedly with both sides blaming each other.