Some 15 thousand South Sudanese children are still separated from their families or missing, five years after war first broke out in South Sudan, the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) says.
The world’s youngest nation has been dogged by war since December 2013, killing tens of thousands and forcing more than four million to flee their homes.
UNICEF says it has managed to reunite close to 6,000 children with their parents or guardians, but many more are still away from their families.
“Every reunification is the result of months and often years of work to trace missing family members in a country the size of France, but without any basic infrastructure,”UNICEF’s Regional Director in Eastern and Southern Africa Leila Pakkala said.
“The suffering children have endured during the fighting has been unimaginable, but the joy of seeing a family made whole again is always a source of hope.”
The children’s agency says separated and unaccompanied children are more susceptible to violence, abuse and exploitation, which makes returning them to their parents an urgent priority.
South Sudan’s war was sparked by a feud between President Salva Kiir and his then-deuty Riek Machar.
Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup against his rule, allegations the latter rejected but then went on to mobilize a rebel force to fight the government.
UNICEF however hopes that a recently signed peace deal will pacify the country, enabling it to reunite the other children with their families.