The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that South Sudan risks losing a generation with 70 percent of the country’s children out of school due to the four-year civil war.
“70 percent of the children are out of school, that is highest in the world. There is too much violence,” Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, said in an interview with Reuters on Friday after visiting some of the areas most devastated by the war.
The bloody civil war in South Sudan, the youngest country in Africa, began in December 2013 when incumbent President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. The two sides have been involved in a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the impoverished country along ethnic lines. Tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict.
“If we don’t help… we are going to lose this generation and that would be tragic for South Sudan because a country cannot build itself without this next generation of young people,” Fore warned.
The UN official also reported widespread malnutrition among children in the country’s northern towns she visited.
“We are heading into the dry season… we might lose up to a quarter of a million children in South Sudan,” she said.
In December, South Sudan’s government and rebel groups inked a ceasefire agreement after talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The deal, however, has been violated repeatedly with both sides blaming each other.