(AA) – The Deputy Executive Director of the UN Children Fund (UNICEF), Yoka Brandt, arrived in South Sudan on Friday for a four-day visit to assess the situation of children in the war-torn country.
“She will meet with women and children, government officials, UN and humanitarian partners,” UNICEF communication specialist Suzanne Beukes told The Anadolu Agency.
“During her four-day mission, Brandt will visit a rapid response mission in a remote location where UNICEF, WFP and partners are working to bring assistance to local populations with life-saving supplies and services, including immunization, nutrition screening and food distribution,” Beukes said.
South Sudan is in a political crisis which has ploughed on for the last 15 months pitting sacked vice president Riek Machar in a rebellion against the government of President Salva Kiir.
Tens of thousands have reportedly been killed in subsequent violence, with some 2 million uprooted from their homes and 2.5 million at risk of starvation, according to recent UN estimates.
UNICEF has reported that 12,000 children have been conscripted and are being used as child soldiers by South Sudan’s warring parties.
On Sunday, Brandt will visit an interim care center in the Pibor area of Jonglei State
The executive director “will also visit an interim care center in Pibor for children who have been released from the Cobra Faction,” Beukes said.
Pibor was at the epicenter of fierce fighting between rebel leader David Yau Yau’s South Sudan Democratic Movement-Cobra faction and government forces that led to the displacement of thousands of people.
A major military operation against the rebels in 2012/13 saw numerous families – especially those of the Murle ethnic group – looking to the rebels for security.
As a result, nearly 3,000 children ended up joining the rebels’ ranks.
“She (Brandt) will speak with some of the children who were formerly associated with the group and who are now being reintegrated into their communities,” she added.