JUBA, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- The protracted conflict in South Sudan has left thousands of children separated from their families since late 2013, putting them at risk of abuse, the UN children's fund (UNICEF) has said.
Children have continued to suffer as a result of South Sudan's civil war, which broke out in December 2013, UNICEF South Sudan spokesman Timothy Irwin told Xinhua in an interview in Juba on Wednesday.
"Since December 2013, 14,628 children have been identified and registered as unaccompanied, separated, or missing, and they are at risk of further abuse due to family separation," Irwin said.
Some of the children have returned to their families.
"As of mid-December 2016, 4,563 children have been successfully reunited with their families, and 9,046 cases remain active and open requiring ongoing interim care and family tracing services," Irwin revealed.
UNICEF has previously accused warring factions of recruiting about 14,000 children in armed combat.
In 2016, UNICEF and partners admitted 203,335 children with severe acute malnutrition into therapeutic feeding programs, Irwin said.
"Some 1.54 million curative health consultations were provided in 2016, of which 557,588 (36.2 percent) were to children under five years. Malaria, diarrhoea and acute respiratory tract infections accounted for 74 percent of all consultations to children under five years," he said.
He said the UNICEF was stepping up efforts in Greater Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Greater Equatoria, Greater Upper Nile and Unity regions which are mostly affected by conflict.
He said the UNICEF was reaching out to those in need in remote areas through a Rapid Response Mechanism together with the World Food Program by helicopter to provide food, health and nutrition assistance.
He however said that insecurity continued to make it difficult to reach many communities in need.
"Many families have fled their homes to the bush or to neighboring countries. It is vital that we are able to reach all those requiring assistance."
According to Irwin, nearly five million of the most vulnerable people across South Sudan are in need of support to access safe water and basic sanitation facilities.
"It is estimated that only 41 percent of the population have access to safe water and less than 14 percent have access to improved sanitation," he said. Enditem