JUBA, South Sudan – UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is calling for a sustained international community and donor support in South Sudan to ensure the safety and dignity of women and young girls who are mostly affected by the crisis.
“I have witnessed first hand the enormous humanitarian challenges facing South Sudan as a result of the conflict, and I call upon both the international community and donors to scale up their response to this crisis,” said Mabingue Ngom, Director of UNFPA’s Programme Division, after a two-day visit to South Sudan.
The violence that first broke out late last year in the capital, Juba, and quickly spread to other key states has killed thousands of people and displaced an estimated one million others – many of whom are women and children. An estimated 4.9 million people in South Sudan are now in need of emergency basic humanitarian assistance.
South Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world—2,054 deaths per 100,000 live births. Pregnant women, who are cut off from basic services and healthcare, are therefore particularly vulnerable in this conflict situation.
Prior to the crisis, the country’s fertility rate was of nearly 7 children per woman. Accordingly, UNFPA estimates that 80,000 pregnant women living in affected areas, 2,800 of whom would give birth every month, will require care by the end of December 2014. In the current context, UNFPA also estimates that 10,000 women and girls could be at an increased risk of sexual violence.
Mr. Ngom noted that while some “good sense of progress” has been made to address the needs of those affected by the violence in the country, the challenges are not commensurate with the available resources.
The UNFPA Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, who was also on the mission, said: “I have visited the camps and seen for myself the poor conditions people are living in, and particularly women and girls. The continuing violence and insecurity pose a big threat to their safety, including being at risk of sexual and gender based violence.”
Dr. Onabanjo commended humanitarian workers in the country for showing passion to help, despite the “enormous challenges including inadequate resources to do their work.”
UNFPA has made an international appeal for $17 million to help an estimated two million people in need of services under the Fund’s mandate until year end. This includes the provision of reproductive health and gender-based violence services.
When South Sudan became a new country in July 2011, it had one of the lowest health worker per capita ratios in the world. In the midst of the crisis today, there are few skilled birth attendants or equipment available for comprehensive obstetric care.
Two thirds of the health facilities in the areas affected by the conflict are reportedly closed or operating at limited capacity. In Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states, state hospitals that usually provide emergency obstetric care services are not functional. Alternative facilities at the peripheries have either been looted or destroyed and/or their health staffs have fled due to insecurity. With the current high risk of child marriage and sexual violence, adolescent girls and young women face specific reproductive health challenges, including unwanted and complicated pregnancy and delivery, unsafe abortions, obstetric and traumatic fistula, psychological trauma, sexually transmitted infections and HIV infection.
UNFPA works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
For more information, please contact:
• In Juba: Yisa Barnabas, Representative, email@example.com, +211-956-444486
• In Johannesburg: Adebayo Fayoyin, Communications Adviser, firstname.lastname@example.org, +27 11 603 5308
• In New York: Alexandra Sicotte-Levesque, Communications Specialist, email@example.com, +1 212 297 5077