Thousands of children in South Sudan reunited with their families; many more living in hope

UNICEF has united at least 4000 children with their parents following the two years conflict in south Sudan(Photo: via voa)

UNICEF has united at least 4000 children with their parents following the two years conflict in south Sudan(Photo: via voa)

JUBA – June 11, 2016:  Four thousand children who were separated from their parents due to conflict in South Sudan have now been reunited with their families, UNICEF and Save the Children announced today.

The milestone was reached when seven-year-old Nyabitu returned to her family home in Kodok today, Saturday, after living for two years in the UN protection of civilian site in Juba. In 2014, Nyabitu and her siblings fled their home in Malakal after attacks on the area that left her mother dead. After wandering for days, her older brother got them on to a plane to Juba. They then relocated to the protection of civilians site.

A total of 12,809 separated and unaccompanied children have been registered by UNICEF’s partners led by Save the Children since the conflict in South Sudan began in December 2013. Efforts are ongoing to trace the families of the more than 8,000 children still separated from their caregivers so that they too can be reunited.

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After arriving in Kodok on board a UN aircraft, Nyabitu had a tearful reunion with her grandmother. “I want to stay with my grandmother and join school. If I finish my education, I want be a pilot so that I can drive my relatives around,” she said

Reuniting separated children with their families is a challenging – and costly – process in a country with virtually no infrastructure and no telephone reception in many areas. Family tracing and reunification (FTR) staff often have to trek for hours to look for separated families.

“FTR is a complex multi-agency system to identify, register, reunify and follow up on separated children, which can take between six to eight months on average. On days like today, we feel that all the hard work we put into saving children’s lives has paid off,” said Peter Walsh, Save the Children’s Country Director in South Sudan.

”The best place for every child is with its family,” Vedasto Nsanzugwanko, UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection. “Reuniting 4,000 children with their caregivers is a great achievement but we’re concerned that due to a significant funding shortfall moments like these may become more difficult to achieve in the future.”  

With funding and technical assistance from UNICEF, Save the Children South Sudan is the lead agency in national family tracing and reunification.

For an interview with Peter Walsh, please contact Emmanuel Kenyi +211 922407209 or Emmanuel.kenyi@savethechildren.org

For an interview with a UNICEF representative, please contact Mercy Kolok + 211 (0) 955 639 658 or mkolok@unicef.org

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