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Going the last mile to reach the most vulnerable affected by conflict

Robin Giri

“There are so many children, women, and elderly persons, who had walked for days in the bush to escape the fighting in Tambura county,” said Joseph Andrea Adiomo, emergency specialist in UNICEF.

The ongoing fighting in Tambura of Western Equatoria state has displaced over 90,000 people, who witnessed horrific violence and fled with little more than the clothes they were wearing.

Children were exposed to high child rights violations. Small children had to walk weeks fleeing the violence in their villages to reach safety in Ezo. Other children as young as 13years were forced to stay in Tambura. They were at risk of being enrolled by the armed groups. Girls were exposed to sexual violence. Many children have been separated from their families.

As part of UNICEF’s response to the crisis and the humanitarian needs, Joseph led a Rapid Response Mission to Ezo where over 20,000 internally displaced persons were living in make-shift camps and sharing already strained resources with the host communities.

The Rapid Response Missions supported by UNICEF, WFP and partners was a lifeline that could quickly provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance for displaced populations who were under constant threat from hunger, disease and violence. Many have no access to clean drinking water, shelter or basic health facilities, exposing them to risk of diseases that including diarrhoea andmalaria, which could prove deadly if left untreated.

During his mission Joseph,was joined by UNICEF staff and partners specialised in health, nutrition, child protection,education as well aswater and sanitation. Two UNICEF trucks carrying 40 metric tonnes of humanitarian supplies such as vaccines, medicines, and therapeutic foods to treat malnutrition among childrenaccompanied them.

During the weekslong mission to Ezo, Joseph and his team distributed2,000 mosquito nets, vaccinated 4,282 children between 6 months to 15 years against measles and 4,813 children under 15 against polio, screened3,400 children under-5 for malnutrition, distributed2,000 bars soaps, and rehabilitatedtwo boreholes for drinking water. Education material were provided to five schools.

With the help of its partner CCMB, UNICEF had begun identifying children separated from their families and provided them psychosocial support to mitigate the trauma they have been through.

“Among the internally displaced persons, we identified 153 unaccompanied children and children separated from their families.Some are as young as five years old,” said Joseph.

UNICEF and CCMB wouldassist these children in need while looking for their relatives and planning for the reunification withtheir family.

Joseph’s mission was one of the mostthat UNICEF and partners were undertaking to support populations affected by conflict. The Rapid Response Missions required complex multi-sectoral planning andface many logistical issues due to the lack of proper roadsand high levels of insecurityoften crossing frontlines.

“These are the times when UNICEF and partners must go the extra mile and deliver life-saving support. Our strength is not just the supplies we provide, but also the commitment of our staff to reach the most vulnerable children and women in South Sudan,” said Hamida Ramadhani, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan.

The crises in Tambura came amidst an already alarming humanitarian situation in South Sudan.  Since the start of the year, more than 4.5 million children were reported in need of humanitarian assistance. This year,1.4 million children were expected to be affected by malnutrition.

While UNICEF and partners called all the conflicting parties to cease hostilities and for the violence to end, humanitarian agencieswould continue to reach remote communities, providing lifesaving servicesand establish or reopen humanitarian services to communities who are without access to food, healthcare, nutrition, education, and clean water.

UNICEF thanked donors such as GAVI, GPE, CDC, USAID-BHA, European Union, European Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), SIDA, and the US State Dept; along with The People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, and the Governments of Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom who were supporting the Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) appeal in South Sudan.

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