Bishop of Coventry calls for the protection of women and children who have fled Myanmar
World Vision ambassador Jerome Flynn says he is ‘changed forever’ after hearing heart-rending stories from war-scarred children in South Sudan.
Jerome met traumatised children last month on a fact-finding trip organised by international charity World Vision. South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, gaining independence in 2011. The East African country has been convulsed by a five-year long civil war which has killed at least 400,000 people. Over 19,000 children have been conscripted into various armed groups.
“Children told me about unimaginable horrors they had seen and experienced,” Jerome says. “Some children were kidnapped by armed groups and forced to fight and kill and watch other children get killed for not keeping up. Others fled torched homes and villages and sought refuge in camps for displaced people, with little food and no education. Many lost mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and were forced to make choices no child should have to make, just to survive.
"I met families torn apart because of the conflict and talked to parents who had sons and daughters snatched from them,” he continued. At times I found their stories of what they had to endure almost too painful to bear.
“Yet I also saw hope in a country ripped apart by war. Dedicated World Vision aid workers are helping desperate families stitch their lives together amid the chaos. I was blown away by the resilience of the children, humbled by their spirit, and inspired by their determination to find happiness.
“I saw how war costs children their innocence but does not always destroy their childhoods. The bravery of the children I met will stay with me forever.”
Full-blown conflict is likely to flare up again in South Sudan unless a national army of government and rebel forces is formed by May 12. More children and young people could then be forced into the bush to take up arms or flee the fighting.
Jerome says: “South Sudan’s latest peace deal is on a short fuse and the situation is desperate. Help is needed urgently to protect children from further violence. Sadly, there are thousands of children across the world who need support right now. Please give generously to help them.”
Jerome’s trip forms part of World Vision’s Made for More appeal for funds to protect the world’s most vulnerable children.
International children’s charity - World Vision - has echoed calls by the Bishop of Coventry, the Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, who yesterday petitioned the government to do more to help vulnerable women and children who have fled Myanmar
This crisis is a deep human tragedy…and we must protect women and children
- Bishop of Coventry, the Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth
The Bishop’s calls come as World Vision prepares to expand its emergency response in Bangladesh. This weekend the charity will distribute tarpaulins to help families build shelters. In the coming weeks, the global children’s charity will open child and women friendly spaces to support those who have experienced abuse or those at risk of violence.
Amy Johnson, World Vision UK’s Political Advocacy Officer, said, “Immediate funding of child protection programming is essential to ensure children’s well-being and survival during and after the crisis, but sadly it is often forgotten. We hope the Bishop’s call for greater protection of vulnerable women and girls will encourage the government to lead the way on child protection in this underfunded humanitarian response.”
“The new shelters we will start building from the weekend will give the refugees Child friendly spaces give children the psychosocial support they need to recover from the horrors they have witnessed.
A recent study by the International Organisation for Migration, showed that children constitute a staggering 58 per cent of all refugees that have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since violence broke out in August. The same study also revealed that children felt unsafe in 74 per cent of refugee sites.
World Vision staff on the ground have received reports that many of the women and children forced to flee have experienced sexual violence and they continue to be at risk of abuse in the overcrowded camps.
Margarettha Siregar, World Vision’s Bangladesh Humanitarian Response Manager, said, “The authorities are doing their very best to support the huge numbers of refugees that have poured across the border, but these makeshift camps are densely populated and the needs are overwhelming.”
We know from working directly with children in the camps that they have a number of competing vulnerabilities. They have seen and experienced the most brutal violence imaginable. Many are alone with no family to support them.
- Margarettha Siregar, World Vision’s Bangladesh Humanitarian Response Manager
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