Thank you for inviting us today and for having undertaken a study that is both appropriate and important.
Save the Children is a global INGO. We operate in 120 countries. We focus primarily on child rights protection, education, health and nutrition. We work domestically in Canada primarily with indigenous communities, youth and children, and internationally both as a humanitarian response and in sustainable development activities.
Based on our global experience, Save the Children is increasingly concerned for children in conflict, including in Somalia, DRC and South Sudan. Our research has indicated an increased number of children caught in conflict zones around the world, combined with an increase in the number of grave violations against children committed in these conflicts.
Using information from UN reports on grave violations, our researchers earlier this year identified the 10 most dangerous places to be a child, and the three countries you are studying all fall on the list.
We're focusing on South Sudan. Save the Children has been in South Sudan since 1989. We have a long history there. We're currently operating in seven of the former 10 states. Our work in food security response is integrated with health, nutrition, education and livelihoods as well as protection of the sector.
There is a certain amount of history that I'm sure you will have been studying. I won't go into that history, but the latest peace accord seems to be a positive step. The fact that it is supported and in fact sponsored by the presidents of Sudan and Uganda is a step that we think bodes well.
That said, reports as late as October from the World Food Programme confirm that there continues to be violence against humanitarian assistance delivery. Even if peace is sustained, as Kevin said, it's a long road to recovery, and immediate intervention is needed to reintegrate children into families and communities.
Kevin also mentioned the number of people displaced: 900,000 children locally, and 12,000 children separated from their families. Those children have an increased vulnerability to violence and sexual exploitation, which is a particular concern for girls, who often have to turn to prostitution and are subject in a higher degree to child marriage.
An adolescent girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than to finish primary school. That's a statistic that is hard to imagine in our context.
Our concerns for children in South Sudan focus on three major areas: protection from grave violations, children's education, and the severe food crisis, endangering the lives of an estimated 20,000 children just in the rest of this year.
Regarding grave violations, the UN Secretary General released a report that focused on South Sudan from 2014 to 2018. There are six kinds of grave violations, as you know.
In these six, 7,000 children were recruited for armed groups and forces; 1,850 children were either maimed or killed, with a strong tendency or frequency for boys being castrated before they're killed.
It is to discourage others.
Some 1,200 children have reported being subjected to sexual violence, and 75% of those cases were gang rapes. Gang rapes are not spontaneous; gang rapes are systematic and premeditated. Hospitals and schools have been targeted. Military use of schools has disrupted the education of 32,500 children.
We hope South Sudan's recent endorsement of the safe schools declaration can lead to a decrease in the military use of schools, but it has been pretty well rampant across the country in recent years.
During this period, 2,900 children were abducted, most of them boys, but there were 600 girls, many for purposes of sexual exploitation.
With regard to humanitarian access, as Kevin also pointed out, there were 1,500 verified incidents of delivery being denied, sometimes with violence against humanitarian workers. These grave violations are not random. This is systematic use of those kinds of actions to terrorize the population.
I'll say a quick word on education. Even before the conflict broke out in 2013, only one child in 10 in the country completed primary school. As a result of the conflict, 800 schools have been destroyed in South Sudan and 400,000 more children have been forced out of school. Today, South Sudan is estimated to have the world's highest proportion of children out of school, at 51%. That's particularly acute, of course, for girls. Seventy-three per cent of girls from six to 11 years old are not in school. By age 14, you're more likely to be married than to be in school in South Sudan.
I'll leave you with one statistic regarding the food crisis. Between now and the end of the year, 20,000 children are likely to die if appropriate response is not delivered. The delivery required is not only money and food but also humanitarian access. The revitalized peace agreement is a good sign for millions of children in South Sudan, but for those children to have a future, they need guaranteed access to humanitarian services, they need humanitarian assistance to be enhanced and sustained, and they need a lasting end to the conflict.
For all three countries you are studying, child protection needs to be prioritized. In the submission we've provided, there's a long list of specific proposals, but I have three requests to make today at a high level.
The first is prioritizing accountability for crimes committed against children, ensuring that future investigations of rights violations include child-specific and gender-specific expertise with child advisers and child protection officers. If there's impunity to these actions, they'll continue to be a growing problem across the world. It's growing not just in South Sudan but also in the two other countries you're studying. We need to bring people to account or it will grow.
The second is education. We welcome Canada's groundbreaking G7 commitment to girls' education in crisis, and in that context we urge the government to include education interventions for girls in South Sudan, in the DRC, and in Somalia.
The final proposal is to meet the urgent needs of the malnourished children of South Sudan and to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the 20,000 children who are likely to die over the course of the coming months if we don't.
Thank you for your time. I'd be happy to respond to questions.