More than 2 million children in South Sudan have fled their homes.
The number of child refugees is now more than a million and another million-plus are internally displaced as a result of the nation’s ongoing civil war.
Additionally, “nearly three quarters of the country’s children are out of school – the highest proportion of out-of-school children in the world,” the U.N. reported in a May 8 press release.
“Children are, indeed, a vulnerable target of the current conflict in South Sudan,” Edward Dima, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kajo-Keji and president of the Baptist Convention of South Sudan, told EthicsDaily.com.
He added, “Many are without shelter, food, medical care and security protection. Other children have had parents killed by the brutal armed forces and they are left helpless. We have tried to support with food, but [there is] not enough.”
Sixty-two percent of all South Sudanese refugees are children, the U.N. reported, and Dima said that there are many more women and children than men living in refugee camps.
South Sudan’s children have had their lives altered in other ways, as well, with 16,000 having been forced into armed service since the conflict began in 2013.
David Shearer, special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for South Sudan, expressed concerns during a May 11 press conference about increasing conflict between youth from two tribal groups.
“The tension between the Bor Dinka and Murle youth has been ongoing and this is not a new thing that is happening,” he explained. “Recently, what we are worried about is the escalation of mobilization of youth from both sides. From what we can understand [they] are heavily armed and therefore any crises could result into large number of casualties.”
Baptists in South Sudan have been among the faith groups engaged in humanitarian aid work amid the crises.
They have housed internally displaced persons in local churches, regularly visited and ministered to refugees (now living in Uganda and other surrounding nations), called out both sides of the conflict for hindering the deliverance of humanitarian aid and sought to facilitate peace.
“Peace is far from being near, and the suffering of the people of South Sudan will be long,” Dima said. “Please continue to pray for us.”
Editor’s note: Previous EthicsDaily.com articles related to South Sudan can be found here. Pictures from South Sudan provided by Dima are available here. A 2015 EthicsDaily.com video interview with Dima can be viewed here.