Nearly 50 million children “uprooted” worldwide – UNICEF

28 million forcibly displaced by conflict and violence within and across borders

Across the globe, nearly 50 million children have been uprooted – 28 million of them driven from their homes by conflicts not of their making, and millions more migrating in the hope of finding a better, safer life. Often traumatized by the conflicts and violence they are fleeing, they face further dangers along the way, including the risk of drowning on sea crossings, malnourishment and dehydration, trafficking, kidnapping, rape and even murder. In countries they travel through and at their destinations, they often face xenophobia and discrimination.

A new report released today by UNICEF, Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children, presents new data that paint a sobering picture of the lives and situations of millions of children and families affected by violent conflict and other crises that make it seem safer to risk everything on a perilous journey than remain at home.  

“Indelible images of individual children – Aylan Kurdi’s small body washed up on a beach after drowning at sea or Omran Daqneesh’s stunned and bloody face as he sat in an ambulance after his home was destroyed – have shocked the world,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “But each picture, each girl or boy, represents many millions of children in danger – and this demands that our compassion for the individual children we see be matched with action for all children.”

Uprooted shows that:

  • Children represent a disproportionate and growing proportion of those who have sought refuge outside their countries of birth: they make up about a third of the global population but about half of all refugees. In 2015 around 45 per cent of all child refugees under UNHCR’s protection came from Syria and Afghanistan.
  • 28 million children have been driven from their homes by violence and conflict within and across borders, including 10 million child refugees; 1 million asylum-seekers whose refugee status has not yet been determined; and an estimated 17 million children displaced within their own countries – children in dire need of humanitarian assistance and access to critical services. 
  • More and more children are crossing borders on their own. In 2015, over 100,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in 78 countries – triple the number in 2014. Unaccompanied children are among those at the highest risk of exploitation and abuse, including by smugglers and traffickers. 
  • About 20 million other international child migrants have left their homes for a variety of reasons including extreme poverty or gang violence. Many are at particular risk of abuse and detention because they have no documentation, have uncertain legal status, and there is no systematic tracking and monitoring of their well-being – children falling through the cracks.
Kueth Tney,13, Nyamuoch Gatdet, 9 and Nyatayin Both, 25, (from left to right) victims of the abduction during a deadly cross border raid on 15 April.
Kueth Tney,13, Nyamuoch Gatdet, 9 and Nyatayin Both, 25, (from left to right) victims of the abduction during a deadly cross border raid on 15 April ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

According to Uprooted, Turkey hosts the largest total number of recent refugees, and very likely the largest number of child refugees in the world. Relative to its population, Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees by an overwhelming margin: Roughly 1 in 5 people in Lebanon is a refugee. By comparison, there is roughly 1 refugee for every 530 people in the United Kingdom; and 1 for every 1,200 in the United States. When considering refugee-host countries by income level, however, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Pakistan host the highest concentration of refugees. 

The report argues that where there are safe and legal routes, migration can offer opportunities for both the children who migrate and the communities they join. An analysis of the impact of migration in high-income countries found that migrants contributed more in taxes and social payments than they received; filled both high- and low-skilled gaps in the labour market; and contributed to economic growth and innovation in hosting countries.

But, crucially, children who have left or are forcibly displaced from their homes often lose out on the potential benefits of migration, such as education – a major driving factor for many children and families who choose to migrate. A refugee child is five times more likely to be out of school than a non-refugee child. When they are able to attend school at all, it is the place migrant and refugee children are most likely to encounter discrimination – including unfair treatment and bullying.

Outside the classroom, legal barriers prevent refugee and migrant children from receiving services on an equal basis with children who are native to a country. In the worst cases, xenophobia can escalate to direct attacks. In Germany alone, authorities tracked 850 attacks against refugee shelters in 2015. 

“What price will we all pay if we fail to provide these young people with opportunities for education and a more normal childhood? How will they be able to contribute positively to their societies? If they can’t, not only will their futures be blighted, but their societies will be diminished as well,” Lake said. 

The report points to six specific actions that will protect and help displaced, refugee and migrant children:

  • Protecting child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.
  • Ending the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing a range of practical alternatives.
  • Keeping families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status.
  • Keeping all refugee and migrant children learning and giving them access to health and other quality services.
  • Pressing for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
  • Promoting measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization.

Ethiopia has a long history as both a sender and receiver of refugees, and its location in the Horn of Africa places it at the centre of one of the largest refugee-generating areas in Africa today. As of 1 July 2016, the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported a total of 741,288 refugees living in Ethiopia, of which nearly 60 per cent (57.2 per cent) are children. This is an increase of more than 600,000 since 2009 with the majority from South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. The volatility of this influx has put significant pressure on the government capacity to provide basic social services in affected areas. Host communities and refugees alike suffer from limited social services, including lack of schools, overstretched health facilities, shortage of water and sanitation facilities.

ECHO’s support realises a safe space for South Sudan refugee children to be children

By Charlene Thompson

Children in one of the child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp
Children in one of the child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Thompson

Gambella, Ethiopia 31 October, 2014 – There’s an exciting game of volleyball being played and both the participants and spectators are intently focused on the next move. A young boy serves and the ball hits the net; he doesn’t quite get it over but the children are laughing.

It’s a scene that could have taken place on any playground, with any group of children but this game is being played in the Kule Refugee Camp in Gambella, Ethiopia and all of the children here fled the war in South Sudan. This volleyball game is being played in one of the child friendly spaces (CFS) developed by UNICEF and Plan International with the financial support of ECHO and in partnership with Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) who manage the camp.

“This child friendly space is providing a safe area for children in this camp where they can play and learn and be themselves,” said Chuol Yar, a 27 year old refugee who is one of the camp’s community child protection workers. “This is a place where they can come and feel protected and love themselves. If they cannot do this here, then we are not doing things well,” he added.

According to UNICEF, child friendly spaces are designed to support the resilience and well‐being of children and young people through community organised, structured activities conducted in a safe, child friendly, and stimulating environment. Through the partnership between UNICEF and Plan International, 31 community child protection workers (14 female and 17 male) were trained in June and are currently providing support to children in two permanent and three temporary child friendly spaces in the Kule Camp.

They received training in principles of child friendly spaces, management of child friendly spaces, developing activities for children and monitoring and response to the needs of children.

The child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp cater to children from 3-18 years of age and they provide play areas for football, volleyball, jump rope and other outdoor activities. In addition, there are traditional storytelling sessions, dramas that are performed by the children, singing, reading materials and spaces where adolescents can engage in peer discussions.

South Sudan refugee children play in child friendly centre in Gambella Ethiopia
South Sudan refugee children play in child friendly centre in Gambella Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

The community child protection workers also visit homes in the Kule Camp to encourage parents to send their children to the child friendly spaces.

“I let the parents know all of the activities that we have in the child friendly spaces and tell them that it is a protected space where the children can play safely,” said David Riang, another community child protection worker at the refugee camp. “The parents usually agree and send the children to the child friendly spaces,” he said as his colleague Chuol quickly added “I tell them without play children cannot learn. Play is important for a child’s mental development.”

In addition to the Kule Camp, UNICEF, with the support of ECHO, is supporting child friendly spaces at the Tierkidi Camp and at the Akobo border entry point. “The children in these camps have already experienced very difficult and tragic circumstances in their short lives. The aim of these child friendly spaces is to provide a safe space where a child can come and be a child,” said Tezra Masini, Chief of the UNICEF Field Office in Gambella.

For many of the community child protection workers this experience has also provided them with the opportunity to develop skills and actively participate in supporting their community. Many are from the same regions in South Sudan and having fled war also share similar experiences with the children. They communicate with the children in their local language and tell traditional stories and social teachings of their clan.

“My dream if God is willing is to become a medical doctor and support my community,” Chuol said and it is a sentiment expressed by other community child protection workers as well. “My dream is for our children to have a better future and hopefully return home one day to a peaceful South Sudan,” noted Bigoa Kuong, a 24 year old social worker who then quickly added with a broad smile, “and also a basketball court for the children to play.”

Foster care and reunification efforts for separated children in Gambella refugee camps

by Monica Martinez and Nadine Tatge

Nyadiet and four foster children together with neighbors and friends in Kule refugee camp Gambella
Nyadiet and four foster children together with neighbors and friends in Kule refugee camp Gambella, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Martinez

Gambella, Ethiopia, 22 April 2015 – Nyadiet is a 50 year old South Sudanese woman who came to Kule refugee camp two years ago when her life was at risk due to the fighting in her country.

She came on her own and the whereabouts of the rest of her family are unknown. Because Nyadiet is on her own, she volunteered to become part of the foster family scheme in Kule camp, implemented by Plan International with support from UNICEF.

For five months now, Nyadiet has been fostering four siblings that also came from South Sudan. The oldest of the four siblings is a 13 year old girl called Nygua who found the bravery to bring her three younger brothers (8, 7 and 5 years old) across the border from South Sudan to Ethiopia.

During the fighting in South Sudan, Nygua and her siblings were separated from their parents and she has not heard anything from them since they left their home. The four children are thankful for Nyadiet’s care and support and they see her as their grandmother.

Nygua and her siblings are four of over 18,000 separated and unaccompanied children currently living in Gambella refugee camps. UNICEF is supporting UNHCR and other implementing partners to identify and document cases of children entering the camps and restoring family links that shall eventually lead to reunification. As an interim solution for children affected by family separation, alternative care through foster families and kinship care is being provided.

Social workers provide psychosocial support to reunification efforts

Kule refugee camp: Nyadiet’s house is on the left where she lives with he four foster childrenSocial workers attending to the children have been trained in psychosocial support. After the training, Simon, one of the social workers, says he now feels confident on how to identify children that might need further specialized services.

He analyses the interaction of children in the child-friendly spaces and especially looks out for children who seem to be isolated from the group of peers. Simon is from South Sudan himself, and he tries to keep the cultural roots and traditions of the South Sudanese refugees alive by performing traditional folklore, singing songs and telling stories in the child-friendly spaces (CFS).

These activities are crucial for the implementation of a holistic, and culturally adjusted psychosocial intervention. Psychsocial interventions provided in the CFS are tailored to the specific needs of children. Factors such as age, sex, and the different wellbeing concerns that an individual might have, are taken into account in order to provide the appropriate response.

Family tracing and reunification efforts

Nygua is attending school in the camp and sometimes she goes to the activities in the child-friendly space. In collaboration with the social workers, Nyadiet is supporting efforts to find Nygua’s parents. Plan International has already initiated the family tracing process and is working closely with the Ethiopia Red Cross Society and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Nyadiet said that she is happy with the support she is receiving from the social workers, who visit her regularly in her house in Kule. The family has basic commodities, but some items like mosquito nets and soap are always scarce and she worries that there is never enough food in the house to properly feed the four fostered siblings. Nyadiet adds, “I try my best to provide clothes for the four children but also these are scarce sometimes.”

Ethiopia and neighbouring countries are hosting the South Sudanese refugees who have fled their country, since the conflict started in December 2013. Heavy fighting continues in South Sudan and therefore it is not known, when the over 200,000 South Sudanese refugees currently living in Gambella refugee camps can return home.

When asked about her future, Nyagua says: “I wish to find our parents or at least to hear that they are fine and safe.”

Strengthening lives through strengthened partnerships in Gambella.

Charlene Thompson

Refugee children from South Sudan learn at a makeshift school at Kule Camp in Gambella region of Ethiopia
Refugee children from South Sudan learn at a makeshift school at Kule Camp in Gambella region of Ethiopia 12 August 2014. USF Board members visits Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ose

Gambella, Ethiopia – 14 November, 2014: Visitors to the grade one classes in the Kule Refugee Camp are often welcomed with a joyful song by the children in their native Nuer language. The song is about their right to an education and the students enthusiastically sing and clap along. In one of these classrooms there is one voice that rises over all of the other voices and immediately draws attention in its direction. It’s the voice of 13 year old Nyabol Lual. A slim, shy adolescent girl with a bright smile.

Holding a pencil and a ruler in her hands, Nyabol explains that she started school in the Kule Refugee Camp in July, one month after she arrived in Gambella, Ethiopia with her mother and her four siblings. After her father was killed in the conflict in South Sudan, her mother led the family on foot from the Upper Nile Region in South Sudan to Ethiopia. Nyabol was enrolled in school in South Sudan but her classes were interrupted by the fighting and she had to stop her education.

Nyabol Lual, 13 – a grade one student in the Kule Refugee Camp. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Thompson

“I like school very much and English is my favourite subject,” she says. Nyabol is one of 24,991 refugee children (10,996 girls; 13,995 boys) now enrolled in school in grades 1-4. A recent ‘Back to School’ campaign in September for the academic year 2014-2015 registered over 18,000 students in Kule and Tierkidi refugee camps. The opening of schools and the campaign to register children in the camps is the result of strong partnerships between Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), UNHCR, UNICEF and NGOs such as Plan International, Save the Children International and World Vision. “In addition to the life-saving services provided in the camps such as nutrition and clean water, it is important that we also give children the opportunity to go school,” says Mr. Daniel Ayele Bezabih, Head of Programme Implementation and Coordination, ARRA. “The partnership between ARRA, UNHCR, UNICEF and other NGOs has ensured that children in the camps can access education and continue to learn,” he adds.

To ensure children could go to school, ARRA; UNHCR and partners such as UNICEF had to allocate land in the camps for the schools; construct classrooms; identify and train teachers from the refugee community; develop a curriculum; and provide learning materials for teachers and students. Once all of this was in place, a door to door campaign was conducted to register children in school. “In an environment such as this where so many basic requirements need to be met and services provided to so many people so quickly; strong partnerships are key to the overall success,” explains Mr. Shadrack Omol, Chief of Field Operations, UNICEF Ethiopia. “The partnership between UNICEF, ARRA and UNHCR in education highlights such strength” he adds. UNICEF leads the cluster coordination for education in Gambella.

Mr. Daniel also acknowledges the importance of effective partnerships which he says was demonstrated when the Leitchuor and Nip Nip refugee camps and the Matar border entry point were flooded from June to October, displacing thousands of refugees. When the rainy season arrived and flooded the camps, thousands of refugees had to be accommodated within host communities. The regional government in Gambella opened its health facilities to the refugees and ARRA, UNHCR, UNICEF and other partners came together to ensure refugees and the host communities were able to access clean water, proper sanitation, health, nutrition, education and protection services.

Since the conflict started in South Sudan in December 2013, more than 190,900 refugees have crossed into Gambella, Ethiopia. Approximately 90 percent of the refugees are women and children. The Ethiopian Government maintains an ‘open-door’ policy towards refugees in keeping with international commitments. This has required robust coordination and effective and efficient partnerships to meet the needs not only of the refugees but also the host communities in Gambella which has also been greatly affected by the very rapid increase in population size. “The Government’s policy is when a refugee camp is established, the host community must also benefit from the services provided,” says Mr. Daniel.

Students in class in the Tierkidi Refugee Camp.
Students in class in the Tierkidi Refugee Camp. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Thompson

In Akula, refugees are settled together with the host community. Humanitarian partners and regional government have scaled up the provision of services to be used by the host community and refugees.   Refugee children attend school with children from the host community. UNICEF is support the humanitarian partners to build a new school in Akula and will provide teaching and learning material for all the children that will be attending the school. “The host communities are incorporated into the planning and implementation of our activities in response to the refugee situation in Gambella and it’s through good working relations with all partners that this is being done,” explains Mr. Daniel.

Back at school in the Kule Refugee Camp, Nyabol says she loves to come to school because she is learning many subjects. She dreams of becoming a doctor in the future so she can help other refugees like herself. For Mr. Daniel, Nyabol’s story represents the overall goal of ARRA, UNHCR and its partners. “Supporting refugees so they can not only sustain their lives but also thrive is success for ARRA,” he says.

One year on – South Sudan refugee children still in need of life saving support

Refugee girls, Nya Panom Makal, Nya Choul Makal and Nayakhor Gatluack pumps water at Burbie Refugees Reception Centre
Refugee girls, Nya Panom Makal, Nya Choul Makal and Nayakhor Gatluack pumps water at Burbie Refugees Reception Centre ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene 

GAMBELLA, Ethiopia – 15 December, 2014: While recognising the 1st year anniversary of the onset of the emergency response for South Sudan refugees in Gambella today, UNICEF appreciated the commitment and dedication of its partners and the generous contribution of donors who have played a key role in providing lifesaving assistance to refugee women and children at the border crossing points, in the refugee camps, and to vulnerable host communities.

Since the conflict started in South Sudan a year ago, more than 190,900 refugees have crossed the border into Gambella Region in Ethiopia. Over 90 percent of the new arrivals are women and children. From the onset of the emergency, UNICEF, in partnership with the Gambella Regional Government, Administration of Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR, have developed a multi-sectoral emergency response strategy to address the humanitarian needs of vulnerable host communities and refugees at the border crossing point and refugee camps.

“Despite tremendous challenges faced by women and children in the refugee camps and border crossing points, we would not have made a difference in the lives of women and children if it has not been for the profound support of our donors and partners,” said Ms. Anupama Rao Singh, Acting Representative of UNICEF. “UNICEF is appreciative of their continued support to critical humanitarian action including: the provision of immunisation, primary health care, nutrition surveillance and prevention and treatment of malnutrition, provision of safe water and improved sanitation, hygiene promotion, psychosocial support for children, family tracing, reunification and care of separated children, and providing a protective environment for learning,” she added.

A mother walks back to her temporary shelter after visiting a clinic
A mother walks back to her temporary shelter with her children after visiting a clinic ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

UNICEF wishes to recognise the continued support of the Government of Ethiopia and partners including, ARRA, the Gambella Regional Health, Water and Education Bureaus, Bureau of Women and Children Affairs, Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs and the Gambella Institute of Teacher Training. UN partners including IOM, UNHCR, WFP, and Non-Governmental Organisations including: Action Contre La Faim, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, CONCERN Ethiopia, Danish Refugee Council, Ethiopian Red Cross Society GOAL, International Medical Corps, International Red Cross, Lutheran World Federation, Médecins Sans Frontières, Norwegian Refugee Council, OXFAM, Plan International Ethiopia, Save the Children International, ZOA and others.

Some of the key donors that supported UNICEF in the emergency response include, but are not limited to: the Governments of, the United Kingdom, the USA and Finland as well as European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF) and the UNICEF National Committees of the United Kingdom and US Fund for UNICEF.

UNICEF Ethiopia appeals for US$ 13.7 million to continue its life-saving emergency response for South Sudanese refugees in the Gambella region in 2015. With this funding, UNICEF and its partners will continue vaccinating children at the border crossing points and refugee camps, provide safe drinking water, basic hygiene and sanitation facilities, child protection and nutrition services, building learning spaces and provide teaching and learning material.

The scale of the crisis in the world’s youngest country is staggering. Since the violence erupted on 15 December 2013, almost 750,000 children have been internally displaced and more than 320,000 are living as refugees. An estimated 400,000 children have been forced out of school and 12,000 are reported as being used by armed forces and groups in the conflict. With traditional social structures damaged, children are also increasingly vulnerable to violence and to sexual abuse and exploitation.

 

UNICEF Ethiopia Supports South Sudanese Children with Vaccination Services

By Demissew Bizuwerk

Nyabiel Chamjock and her nine moth old daughter in Tergol.
Nyabiel Chamjock holds her nine months old daughter closer after he gets vaccinated. Nyabiel is one of the thousands asylum seekers, who crossed into Tergol town of Akobo Woreda, the Gambella region of Ethiopia that borders with South Sudan. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Bizuwerk

TERGOL, AKOBO WOREDA (GAMBELLA REGION)- Nyabiel Chamjock, a 20-year-old South Sudanese refugee, waits in line at the vaccination post with her nine-month-old daughter in her arms. She joins a long queue of other mothers with young children who are also waiting at the post to receive vaccinations. The growing queue is evidence of an effective community mobilisation campaign carried out in the last few days. In addition to the vaccination post where Nyabiel is waiting, three more posts have been made operational to cope with demand from the rising influx of South Sudan refugees. To ensure that vaccination posts are adequately stocked with supplies – two UNICEF boats regularly deliver vaccines. Nyabiel is one of the thousands of refugees who crossed into Tergol town in January in the Gambella Region of Ethiopia bordering South Sudan. Sadly, Nyabiel lost her husband during the tribal conflict between the Murle and the Lue Nuer tribes more than a year ago. She has recently had to face more tragedy. The eruption of violence in South Sudan, in December 2013, forced Nyabiel to flee into Ethiopia in search of safe refuge. After trekking most of the day on foot, clutching her child and a few selected belongings, she managed to cross the border.

Mass Vaccination Campaign for Refugees and Host Community
After waiting 30 minutes in the queue, Nyabiel’s daughter finally receives her required vaccines. She receives an injection against measles and drops to prevent her from contracting polio; she also receives vitamin A supplementation. In addition, her mid-upper arm circumference is measured to check her nutrition status. The chubby little infant looks surprisingly healthy despite the difficult conditions that her family is facing. Before Nyabiel leaves the vaccination post she is given a card confirming her daughter’s immunisation. She is also reminded that it is important to keep the card safe for future reference.

Nyabiel understands the importance of vaccinations for her child. “I know that my child will be protected from diseases after taking the vaccines. It is difficult in this area to keep a child healthy. As it gets dry and hot, children easily fall sick,” she said.

A four years old boy from South Sudan receiving a Polio vaccination in Tergol town   A child getting a Vitamin A supplementation in Tergol town.

UNICEF supports the provision of vaccination and nutrition supplements to children affected by the conflict in South Sudan
 

The mass vaccination campaign administered to South Sudanese refugees and members of the host community in Tergol, the capital of Akobo Woreda, is supported by UNICEF in coordination with the Regional Health Bureau. The campaign started at the beginning of January 2014 and more than 95 per cent of children have been targeted for immunisation.

UNICEF has prepositioned emergency vaccine supplies in the Gambella Region to ensure a timely response to the acute emergency needs of those fleeing from the violence in South Sudan and also to the vulnerable members of the host community. The mass vaccination campaign is crucial in preventing outbreaks like measles and polio. In the context of population movement across borders – especially in emergency situations – disease outbreaks can easily occur and prevention measures need to be in place to protect vulnerable mothers and children.

“This vaccination campaign is very important for the health of children both from the host community and refugees,” says Getachew Haile, UNICEF health emergency officer.  “It protects the children from contagious viral diseases such as measles and polio,” he adds.

In addition to the provision for vaccines against measles and polio, vitamin A supplementation is also given to children aged between six months and five years. Since the Gambella Region is prone to malaria, a distribution of mosquito nets has also helped to reduce the incidence of malaria morbidity and mortality.

Coordination Work
The emergency response to South Sudan refugees in Tergol is being coordinated by the Government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR. UNICEF supports the health activities of ARRA and UNHCR in partnership with the Regional Health Bureau. Adequate planning and functional systems have been put in place to manage human resource and logistic arrangements. In addition, health workers from Gambella town and adjacent areas such as Gniengnang, Wantowa and Tergol have received a one-day orientation.

With the support of the local administration, vaccination posts have been set up in locations that are accessible to the host community and refugees. Community mobilisation work has been an integral part of the vaccination campaign to ensure that community members and refugees are aware of the campaign programme and its importance to the health of mothers and children.

Head of the Akobo Woreda health office, Samuel Yien, acknowledges the impact of UNICEF’s support. He says that the emergency vaccination campaign is going well and that the activities are monitored closely. “We are grateful for the support we received from UNICEF. We are coordinating activities together and so far the campaign is good,” he added.

The Akobo Woreda (district) is the most inaccessible area in the Gambella Region. To reach the woreda capital of Tergol, one has to take an eight-hour boat ride from Buribe town- the last town accessible by vehicle. Accessibility problems make the role of UNICEF boats essential in delivering vaccines and other supplies to the vaccination posts.

Children are the most affected by the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Bizuwerk

Thousands of civilians, mainly women and children, have been affected by the violence that broke out in South Sudan in mid-December 2013. At the beginning of April 2014, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimated that more than 88,000 refugees crossed over the Ethiopian border through six entry points including Tergol, since the conflict began. These people are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, including food, water and health services. Mothers and their babies are visibly weak after enduring the long trek to Tergol, while some of the children are malnourished. As the influx of refugees increases and puts food supplies under strain, the nutritional status of newly arrived children deteriorates.

Although some of the refugees in Tergol are being accommodated by the host community, there are still many more staying in makeshift shelters close to the Akobo River.

Nyabiel constructed her small makeshift shelter from sticks and rags to offer some protection from the piercing sun. Her new rickety home is shared with her child, her grandmother and a few scattered bags containing her belongings. She hopes better times await her child. She is keen to keep her daughter healthy and despite the challenges she faces – she is determined to send her to school because “an education will help bring her a better future,” she adds.