It’s now six weeks since the government of Sudan suspended 16 humanitarian organizations that had been providing essential aid for scores of vulnerable people in Darfur and other parts of the country. The crisis in Sudan may have fallen out of the headlines, but that does not mean the situation has improved. In fact, it is getting worse ” especially for children.
Malnutrition is fast becoming a graver and graver threat, and up to 1.3 million people in southern Sudan could soon run out of food. Others throughout the country may lose access to health care, clean water, and shelter. I am worried that important gains in children’s health and survival could be lost.
UNICEF and other UN agencies (UNHCR, UNJLC, WFP, WHO) are fortunately still able to operate in Sudan. We are working diligently to fill critical gaps and are doing everything in our power to make sure children and families have what they need to survive. Polio and meningitis outbreaks have presented additional challenges, and we are supporting vaccination campaigns while also striving to cover the services interrupted by the suspension of the humanitarian groups.
We fervently hope this is a short-term arrangement: These organizations are our partners, and their departure represents a depletion of 40 percent of the humanitarian workforce in all of Sudan”and a huge loss of expertise and capacity. We need our partners back on the ground so we can effectively carry out our mission, and we continue to push for their return.
In 2007, UNICEF Ambassador Dayle Haddon and I visited camps for internally displaced people in Darfur. We met women and children who had endured unspeakable, incomprehensible horrors. I remember sitting in a classroom with a group of girls, some of whom had been brutally raped. These girls had suffered atrocities no child should even know exist, and their experiences had aged them beyond their years. But they were also still children. They were shy when we first met but, after we started talking, they began to giggle and laugh”like any young girls. It was a privilege to meet these remarkable children, whose bravery and tenacity of spirit were so uplifting.
I think of these girls now and wonder how they are doing. To imagine that they and other children in Sudan will struggle even harder to survive is unbearable.
To make up for shortfalls in aid, UNICEF is delivering medicines and medical equipment, training health workers, providing clean water and sanitation and supporting therapeutic feeding centers. We are also distributing other lifesaving supplies and supporting efforts to track unaccompanied children and reunite them with their families.
Again, this is not a sustainable situation. We would like our partners back, so we can all work together to save as many children as possible.
UNICEF will not rest as long as any child anywhere is at risk. All over the world, more than 25,000 children die every day from preventable causes. Our goal is to reach a day when that number is zero. That goal feels as urgent as ever with children and families in Sudan facing these new threats. We know, of course, that we wouldn’t be able to meet any of these needs without your incredible generosity. We thank you for enabling us to be there for the children of Sudan and ask that you continue to support our work during this difficult time.