I call the meeting to order.
Good afternoon, colleagues. This is the114th meeting of the foreign affairs committee. We are continuing our work of the study on the situation in Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We are going to hear from two witnesses in the first hour. By teleconference, we have Nuur Mohamud Sheekh, senior political affairs officer, peace and security division, from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. From the United Nations Security Council, we have Renifa Madenga, humanitarian affairs expert, panel of experts on South Sudan, joining us from Washington by video conference. Thank you to you both.
Mr. Sheekh, I'm going to suggest that we begin with you because we know how fraught these phone lines can be sometimes.
Mr. Sheekh, because we can't see you, if you have a question during the discussion and the question period, please make yourself heard. Then I will know you are waiting to provide comments when we get to that point.
We will begin with your eight to 10 minutes, then we will go to Madam Madenga.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and distinguished honourable members.
I very much welcome this opportunity to address you on the recent successfully concluded High Level Revitalization Forum on the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. The acronym I will be using for this is ARCSS.
This is my first presentation to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, and I appreciate the opportunity.
Almost one and a half years ago, the IGAD assembly mandated the High Level Revitalization Forum of the South Sudanese parties and the stakeholders to discuss concrete measures to restore a permanent ceasefire to achieve a full and inclusive implementation of the agreement, and to develop a revised and realistic timeline and implementation schedule towards a democratic election at the end of the transitional period.
The assembly further mandated the IGAD Council of Ministers to convene and facilitate this process.
I'm happy to inform you this evening, Mr. Chairman, that the IGAD member states, together with the support of the international community, have successfully come to the end of this noble process with all the South Sudan parties and stakeholders appending their signatures to the revitalized ARCSS. The agreement was signed at an IGAD summit in Addis Ababa on September 12 of this year.
Mr. Chairman, honourable members, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight our achievements, challenges and outcomes to this august House. I will make these remarks very short.
I will highlight some of the key progress made following the IGAD council decision at the 32nd extraordinary session held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 21, during which they inter alia mandated President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to facilitate the second round of face-to-face discussions between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Dr. Riek Machar Teny to discuss and resolve the outstanding issues on governance and security arrangements, including measures proposed in the revised regional proposals of the IGAD Council of Ministers.
Mr. Chairman, in accordance with the IGAD council decision above, the Khartoum round of talks was launched on June 25 of this year as a continuation of the two phases of the HLRF and the face-to-face talks held here in Addis Ababa. The Khartoum talks followed the signing of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access, signed on December 22, 2017, and the initialling of several agreed-on governance and security issues that had been accomplished here in Addis Ababa. The Khartoum talks, including a round of face-to-face meetings held in Entebbe, Uganda, quickly produced results, including an agreement between the two principals, His Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit and former first vice-president, His Excellency Riek Machar Teny to work together to end the conflict.
Prior to the currently revitalized ARCSS 2018, the South Sudanese parties and the stakeholders had concluded several agreements.
First was the Khartoum Declaration of Agreement Between Parties of the Conflict of South Sudan, signed on June 27, 2018.
Second was the agreement on the outstanding transitional security arrangements, signed on July 6, 2018.
Third, the agreement on the outstanding governance issues for the transitional period was signed on July 25, 2018.
Finally, the agreement on the outstanding issues on governance was signed on August 5, 2018.
Mr. Chairman, the signing of the full text of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan on September 3 was a milestone and marks an end to formal negotiations on the HLRF.
The revitalized agreement was also preceded by the initialling of the agreement and by the development of a comprehensive implementation matrix, which were also initialled on September 2 of this year, as well as by the convening of the security arrangement workshop from September 3 to September 5, 2018. The outcome of this workshop was also initialled by the parties.
The HLRF has been an all-inclusive process that enabled all parties to the agreement on the resolution of this conflict—including the estranged groups and other South Sudanese stakeholders, faith-based groups, South Sudanese refugees, civil society organizations, women and youth—to participate in the process.
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members, now briefly allow me to update you on some of the IGAD assembly decisions.
The assembly has decided that until his final status is determined at the upcoming ordinary summit of the IGAD assembly, the SPLM-IO leader, Dr. Riek Machar Teny shall be allowed to stay in a country of his choice in the region.
The assembly also resolves that IGAD shall engage the United Nations Security Council to ensure that the regional protection force is fully deployed to execute its mandate in accordance with the UN Security Council's resolutions 2304 in 2016 and 2406 in 2018, and shall request a further review of its mandate to allow Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti and Somalia as guarantors to contribute forces to enhance the protection and security throughout the implementation of this agreement.
The council further mandates the IGAD chiefs of staff to assess the operational needs and elaborate the necessary tasks of the RPF, the Regional Protection Force, in light of the current situation on the ground, and the prospective expansion as the basis for securing an endorsement from the African Union Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council.
Mr. Chairman and honourable members, as I conclude, allow me to congratulate all the South Sudanese parties for conducting their talks in good faith and for their determination and resilience.
At IGAD we will work closely with all the political stakeholders in the country as well as regional and international partners for an inclusive, impartial and honest implementation of this agreement. The signing of the agreement in September was not forced upon the parties. It shows an act of compromise and leadership.
We at IGAD are hopeful for the future, though we do not underestimate the task ahead. The announcement to release more political prisoners and the call to open humanitarian access routes and to allow free movement of people are important indicators that the parties are willing and able to make compromises.
That key opposition leaders came to Juba just last week after a long absence to share the podium in the spirit of compromise and national solidarity is a public signal that the much-needed vision of trust and inclusive implementation of the agreement is under way. The implementation of this agreement has begun in earnest, and key implementation institutions for governance, security and monitoring have been established.
We thank with our whole heart the African Union Commission, the United Nations, the European Union, Troika countries, China, Japan, Canada and IPF members for their contribution to this process.
The Government of Canada has provided generous funding to IGAD for this process and its implementation.
Mr. Chairman, finally I want to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to you for this opportunity to brief this distinguished select committee, and I look forward to closely working with you in implementing the revitalized agreement. Rebuilding South Sudan and responding to the current dire humanitarian situation and security challenges requires our collective action.
I thank you.
It is an honour to address the standing committee today. I would also like to thank Mr. Sheekh, my colleague, for sharing the panel with me.
I want to indicate up front that I'm coming here not in my capacity as the humanitarian expert on the panel of South Sudan; I'm here in my personal capacity.
I thank you, Mr. Chair, for the introductory remarks. I will be referring to the humanitarian work I've done in the region in South Sudan and why I think this is a privilege and an opportunity. I want to share with the committee some of the observations on South Sudan.
I've worked in South Sudan since 2014 with a commission on fact-finding, the AU-UN Women's Committee. I have also worked with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, in 2016. Now I'm with the panel of experts.
The views I'm sharing are the views of an ordinary person going to South Sudan. We have seen people sick and tired of the humanitarian situation in South Sudan. When I visited South Sudan in 2014, there was a crisis. When I went back in 2016, people were very tired. When I went back in October of this year, I found that the ordinary people were very weary. I'm talking about my observations on the ordinary people in South Sudan.
Our mandate as a panel of experts also gives us the privilege of talking to different categories of people. When I was talking to the most vulnerable boys and girls, men and women, people who have seen the protracted crisis in South Sudan, they made pertinent observations that I want to share with the Standing Committee today.
In the area of human rights matters, the study that the Standing Committee is working on is very important. You're undertaking a study so that all of Canada can better address the issues of conflict, peace, gender-based violence, security and justice. You are also looking at respect for human rights and at the economic development in South Sudan.
My address today will try to address some of the issues you are looking into.
I will start with the humanitarian situation in South Sudan.
My colleague has already explained in detail the revitalized agreement that was signed on September 12, 2018. As we talk now, there is supposed to be peace in South Sudan. However, I want to highlight the disparity between the peace talks and the reality.
I was engaged in meetings with South Sudanese authorities, the international diplomatic community, the United Nations entities, and some ordinary people in the streets of South Sudan. The public highlighted the plight the ordinary people were going through.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is serious. Despite the political progress, which we should all be celebrating, the ordinary South Sudanese people have been suffering since December 2013, and they continue to suffer now.
Some of the issues that are very pertinent in this crisis include conflict-related sexual violence and also gender-based violence.
From the beginning of the conflict in South Sudan, sexual violence has been a very serious issue. The crisis, protracted as it is, has been characterized by a lot of sexual violence. This has affected boys. It has affected men. It has affected women. It has affected girls. It has affected ordinary people, and it continues to affect them now.
People might relate to conflict-related sexual violence as part of the armed conflict, but even during the peace process there are incidents documented of people exposed to conflict-related sexual violence. There are also incidents of gender-based violence.
For us to carefully understand the situation in South Sudan, especially as it relates to gender-based violence, I think it is important for us to remember that even during the South Sudan conflict, there was a lot of reported and documented conflict-related sexual violence, and that with regard to South Sudan, we are looking at a society that is very militarized, a patriarchal society in which the status of women is determined by patriarchal values and other traditional values.
When I say that ordinary people who have been exposed to both conflict-related sexual violence and gender-based violence are weary, I actually mean that it goes back to what happened before 2011. It then goes to the crisis that started in 2013, and it now goes beyond the peace talks in 2015. Between those periods of peace talks, the reality is that people are still exposed to conflict-related sexual violence and also to gender-based violence in the form of early marriages and in the form of domestic violence.
Then we also come to one of the aspects that you are looking at in this study: justice. In all the visits I have made to South Sudan, civilians in particular have been calling for accountability for gross human rights violations and violations of principles of international humanitarian law and human rights law that have been perpetrated in South Sudan since 2013.
There has been a lot of impunity, but there has been very limited accountability. Recently we were celebrating the Terrain case, in which at least some people were brought to justice. However, the majority of South Sudanese have not seen justice done. They have not seen the atrocities addressed. They have not seen accountability in terms of the lives they lost—those who were near and dear to them—or the malicious injury to their properties.
Now as we talk about peace and the fact that internally displaced persons should be resettled, should be rehabilitated, should go back to their homes, the question for some of them is where they can go.
When I visited South Sudan in October, that was one of the issues raised by ordinary people I talked to—ordinary men, women and young people who actually knew that as we talked about peace, their homes in Bor, Malakal and Yei were occupied by persons, some of whom allegedly perpetrated offences against them, so the humanitarian situation is still very serious, and it is also a serious concern.
Then we also talk about respect for human rights in South Sudan. The human rights paradigm has been very problematic. In that regard, I would urge the international community, including Canada, to look at interventions that can address and redress the situation on the ground.
One aspect of the recommendations would go to supporting human rights defenders. They've been doing a lot of work. They've been documenting a lot of atrocities. They need capacity-building if accountability is going to be realized, maybe through the hybrid court, which was recommended in 2014. There has been an inordinate delay in actually bringing it into operation to implement the recommendations relating to the hybrid court.
There are certain areas that also need a lot of intervention. During the October visit we saw people who need food, so the food insecurity issue is a very serious issue in South Sudan. In that regard I urge the standing committee to look into ways of supporting the agencies on the ground, either governmental organizations or local groups that are trying to redress and address the issue on the ground.
There are other issues relating to unemployment, relating to other human rights violations, on which I would urge the international community, and Canada in particular, to take initiatives to help the local people, to empower them to stand up and address the issues that are very pertinent in the situation of South Sudan.
I can try to respond to your questions.
It is a very good question. It's also a weighty question. There are no easy answers.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan, as has been referred to by Ms. Madenga, is dire. There are security challenges and violations that are there.
What I can say is that since the high-level revitalization forum began six months ago, there is evidence that violations, especially fighting in South Sudan, have been significantly reduced.
In our sustained engagement in South Sudan at the highest level in the region, all of the state governments who are engaged engaged the warring parties at the highest levels, putting pressure on them to abstain from violating the ceasefire arrangement. That, by and large, has also worked to a great extent.
The issue of political prisoners was a thorny issue. In the agreement they made it very clear that as a confidence-building measure, political prisoners have to be released. This has happened. On the 31st of last month, just last week, the former vice-president made a visit to Juba with President Omar al-Bashir. The Ugandan president also was in Juba, President Yoweri Museveni.
There is confidence building. I'm not saying that the task ahead is easy. What we are seeing, since we engaged in this process, is that the hostilities are diminishing. In Juba last week, all the political parties—all of them, without exception—were there.
What can be done? As regions and members of the international community, we should continue engaging these parties. Disengaging from this process is not an option. If we disengage, these parties will again relapse into conflict and violence.
It's very important, committee, that Ms. Madenga also alluded to the humanitarian situation. The situation of food insecurity in South Sudan is dire. We should continue funding those local organizations that provide food to local populations, especially in those hard-to-reach areas, with the opening up of humanitarian access.
The return of IDPs is very important. Finding proper solutions for these populations is very important. The region has graciously hosted them as hosts. They had a million plus refugees; they took a quarter of a million refugees coming in. Most of them wish to return back to their home areas. We should work hand in hand to make sure we find a durable solution for this situation.
Security arrangements in South Sudan are very important. A whole chapter of this peace agreement, chapter 2, is on security arrangements. We are talking about demobilization of the armed groups and reintegration. This is not an easy undertaking. The dialogue on this aspect is ongoing as we speak. Canada and the international community should also try to work with us in tandem. That is the only way we can stabilize South Sudan and help that country return to normalcy.
Thank you very much for the question.
I will start by highlighting that in view of the peace processes, the priority now is the cessation of all hostilities so that all guns are actually quietened and that people start to live normally in a situation of sustainable peace. That is the way to sustainable peace.
I come now to the mandate of the Panel of Experts on South Sudan, which was extended pursuant to Security Council resolution 2428 on July 13, 2018, which you have referred to. I want to highlight that now, with the arms embargo and the other activities related to the mandate, it is our view that we will continue examining and analyzing the information on the ground. We will continue implementing the sanctions regime, making sure that those targeted by the sanction measures are actually monitored and investigated, and that resolution 2428 is applied to the situation in order to address and redress the situation on the ground.
I want to comment specifically on the area of humanitarian and human rights measures. The designation criteria of the sanctions regime also include targeting those who are targeting civilians or planning, directing or committing acts of violation. The sanctions regime is actually complementing, in a material way, all the peace processes so that there is humanitarian assistance. You referred to food insecurity, and there is access to areas where people are in need of food.
I think all those measures are actually complementing the peace process.
Sir, if I may correct the assumption you made that not all the opposition groups were included in the peace process, the postscript of this peace process is that all the opposition groups have been included. The South Sudan Opposition Alliance, other political parties, and SPLM-IO were all included in this peace agreement.
Second, the heads of states and governments of IGAD, in June of this year, and the chair of IGAD, together with his colleagues, asked President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to try to narrow the differences between these groups, and to his credit, he has successfully done that.
However, one thing I may say is that this conflict in South Sudan was hatching a dire situation for the economy in the region. The oil was not flowing, so it was hurting them. Uganda's economy was also relying heavily on South Sudan, because Uganda was providing goods and services to South Sudan, so it was hurting them. Also, Uganda is hosting a large number of South Sudan refugees, so the region, honourable member, as you can see, has been negatively affected, and this has brought the regional leaders to come together to address the implications and consequences of this conflict.
What we are seeing is that all the leaders are engaged in this process in good faith, in good spirit, and as an organization we have faith in the outcome of this process and the agreement and we hope that it will work. The Troika statements have been consistent that they are going to support the implementation of this process. Canada has just given us funding of $140,000 towards the implementation of this agreement.
All signs from within the region and from our intelligence are this agreement will hold.
Thank you very much for that question, Madam.
The HLRF process is different from the previous peace process of 2015. In the HLRF and council participation, we expanded participation of the various stakeholders, including adherents, eminent personalities, and women's groups. The women's groups were very active, and it's not just one women's group—there are a number of them.
Also, after the process was concluded on September 12, the agreement established institutions and mechanisms for the implementation of this agreement. We encouraged the political parties to nominate women for some of the institutions and mechanisms established by this agreement.
I wouldn't say that a good number of women were nominated by political parties, despite our encouraging them to do so, but the political parties did nominate a number of women for these institutions. I would not look at this in isolation from what is happening in the wider IGAD region, as you will all know that Ethiopia recently appointed a woman as the president of the country for the first time. She was also in Juba last week during this peace celebration, which is continuing to encourage the parties to nominate women to more positions in the government, and all the parties and the governments are very receptive.
I'd also like to thank the Government of Canada for providing funding to UN Women. UN Women have seconded a staff person to IGAD as our gender adviser. The salary of that senior official is paid by your government, and we thank you.
Thank you very much again for that question.
The implementation of this process has just begun. What has been happening over the last few weeks and days is, number one, confidence building between leaders of these political parties. We've had two very important meetings so far of the National Pre-Transitional Committee and the National Constitutional Amendment Committee. The past two meetings were held in Khartoum, because we all viewed the confidence as not sufficient.
I am happy to now report that next week these two committees will meet in Juba, not outside of the country.
Number two, the ceasefire monitoring group CTSAMM has been visiting some of these areas that are under the former rebel groups and also other areas that are under the control of the government. The monitoring group is doing its work monitoring the ceasefire. The ceasefire, as I said earlier, is holding.
On demobilization, this is a conversation that is ongoing. It will start with cantonment of forces and then demobilization.
As my colleague Ms. Madenga also stated earlier, South Sudan's economy is in very bad shape. Oil has started flowing, but livelihood activities and employment opportunities are limited.
We encourage our international partners, such as Canada, to make sure that this trust between political leaders is sustained and pressure is put on them. It is only then that the situation on the ground will be safe for proper demobilization of these forces.
During the several visits I did in South Sudan, the footprint of Canada was reflected in many of the Canadian agencies working in South Sudan in the form of the Canadian Lutheran World Relief, Save the Children Canada, Oxfam Canada, and Plan International. When we talked to ordinary people, there was a feeling of this support related to humanitarian assistance on the ground. When I say “ordinary people”, I mean those who are directly affected by the conflict in South Sudan.
In terms of the interventions that Canada can take, Canada should continue to work with what I've referred to as the ordinary people. Let's say it's survivors of the conflict who are now living in PoCs or as IDPs, or when we talk of food insecurity, it's facilitating access to those people who don't have adequate food. It's also in terms of the medical facilities. The interventions I'm looking at from Canada are the humanitarian support that Canada is giving.
Then it's also in terms of issues like capacity building for accountability, so that even those local institutions can actually work directly with the people affected.
I know for a protracted crisis there is also donor fatigue. I would continue to encourage Canada to reach out to those people, because I think they are at a stage where they need a lot of help to rehabilitate, a lot of help to resettle, and a lot of help even to go through the process of recovering from the crisis.
Thanks to this committee.
CARE Canada is honoured to contribute to this deliberation on South Sudan, Somalia and DRC. CARE is a rights-based international non-governmental organization. We support life-saving humanitarian assistance, protection, recovery and peacebuilding, as well as longer-term development work.
Last year, CARE reached more than 62 million people in 95 countries around the world, including South Sudan, Somalia and the DRC.
My remarks today are primarily focused on the crisis in South Sudan, its impact on women and girls, and recommendations that we can draw for Canada's role in the region.
These are both based on my personal experiences and inputs from CARE's brave South Sudanese staff, many of whom have worked at personal risk with people affected by conflict and drought for over 25 years.
I lived in South Sudan during the independence period. I had the privilege of sharing that with my South Sudanese colleagues. The atmosphere then was one of excitement and optimism. Today it's fair to say that optimism has vanished.
On my most recent visit to South Sudan, I met a mother at a clinic that CARE runs in Unity state. We talked about the services her children received, including high-energy food to help them recover from severe malnutrition. I also asked her about her hopes for the future. She said she hoped that she and her family survived, but she didn't expect peace. She expected things would get worse, with war, hunger and no services. So far, her predictions have held fairly true.
The South Sudanese displacement crisis is now the largest in Africa and the third-largest in the world. Since 2013, more than four million people have been forced to flee their homes, and it includes more than two million people who are now refugees in neighbouring countries. The majority of these displaced are women and children.
As your previous guests noted, parts of the country in South Sudan are reaching catastrophic levels of hunger that are rarely seen elsewhere in the world. Over seven million people, almost two-thirds of the population, require humanitarian assistance. Climate change and droughts are intensifying this food crisis, driving competition for these scarce resources and increasing the burden carried by vulnerable people.
This crisis has had a particularly devastating impact on women and girls. Women and girls in South Sudan make impossible decisions every day, decisions like whether to stay home in relative safety but hungry or to risk walking to distant markets or into the bush to gather firewood. Up to 65% of women and girls in South Sudan have experienced physical or sexual violence. That's 65%. Assault, abduction, rape and gang rape occur with impunity, even in broad daylight.
Some women resort to sexual exploitation for protection, food and survival. Early child forced marriages increase as parents face the impossible choice between accepting a dowry or falling deeper into debt, hunger and malnutrition. As a father myself, I can't imagine having to make that decision.
Recognizing that the global humanitarian funding is well below the needs, my recommendations today are focused on how Canada can most effectively use its resources to have the largest impact in these crises.
First, Canada needs to focus on the political solutions that address the root causes of these conflicts. The message I heard loud and clear from the South Sudanese people is that they need stability and peace. Paths to these solutions are becoming more complicated. Peace is often linked to military or security operations. Complex crises like those in South Sudan, DRC and Somalia do not have a singular cause or a singular solution.
The Canadian government should apply its whole-of-government approach to help find a negotiated political solution to the conflict. Critically, this solution needs to be accompanied by measures that address root causes, which include improving equality, building community resilience to shocks such as the impacts of climate change, and ensuring inclusive and effective governance at all levels in each country.
Effectively responding to these crises will clearly require a comprehensive regional approach. However this approach can't come at the expense of focusing on the critical needs and the root causes inside each country.
Second, we need a clear focus on women's and girls' specific needs and their agencies. Conflicts are a shock to the status quo, forcibly changing gender roles. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for change. Existing gender inequalities are compounded when humanitarian responses gloss over women's needs or simply portray women and girls as victims. Ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health services, for example, saves lives, just like clean water, shelter and food, but too often responses treat such services as an afterthought, more like an extra, so Canada should commit to the consistent and full provision of the minimum initial service package for reproductive health at the onset of every crisis and in every humanitarian response.
This ensures that emergency support considers women's reproductive needs right from the start. Women will still get pregnant and still give birth in crises.
With respect to women's agency, not nearly enough attention is given to women's and girls' contributions to social transformation even in the midst of conflict. Real change happens when programs are underpinned by meaningful consultation and engagement of women and girls.
Third, we need to fund and do more through local responders. Insecurity in active conflict often forces the suspension of activities, so we need to support programs that complement and reinforce national humanitarian actors, including local women's rights organizations. These local actors have better access and a better understanding of the local context. When provided with resources and supplementary support, they can do amazing work, yet only 2% of global funding currently goes directly to local organizations.
South Sudan is again this year the most dangerous country in the world to be an aid worker. National staff are often direct targets of violence against humanitarian organizations. Efforts to support local organizations should be matched with the appropriate resources to operate safely in these challenging environments. Additionally, Canada should continue to demand accountability for incidents when humanitarian workers are targeted, including publicly condemning such incidents when they occur.
Although a ceasefire has been reached, now is not our time to step back from efforts in South Sudan. To the contrary, I believe we need to double our efforts. Millions of people have been displaced, farmers have been unable to cultivate their crops, livelihoods and homes have been destroyed. A deep normalization of violence and impunity will leave a lasting impact on every generation, every community and every clan. This type of impact is not undone overnight. The number of people in need of assistance will remain shockingly high for years to come, but the people of South Sudan need some hope for the future, not just hope that their family will survive another day. They need hope that the international community will deliver on the promise they once gave to South Sudan.
Thank you for your interest in these forgotten crises today. I look forward to answering any of your questions. Thank you.
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.
Thank you for both presentations this afternoon.
We know how much South Sudan had to go through in the first war to separate from north Sudan and what that was all about. It seems that the problems are connected in a way. We have hunger, we have kids, we have IDPs, and we have a political situation. This is a foundational problem that those countries are going through. We have to deal with so many things. Probably as a priority, we have to deal with hunger before we deal with other things. We want to make sure that people survive, but then we have to add police protection, and then accountability comes up. It's the second or third time we've heard about accountability today.
The question is to both of you, and you choose who wants to answer first.
How can we set our priorities in Canada in order to be very effective, or most effective, in this situation? I think those directions are needed for us to begin or to continue down the road to make sure that we can find some fundamental solutions to the crisis.
One thing that comes to mind when I address that is how can we set the foundation to make sure that down the road, we'll find a long-term solution with the band-aid solutions that we have to deal with?
I leave that with you. Please go ahead.
I'd go back to the three recommendations I made.
The first, of course, is that if there are 20,000 children who are going to die in the next months, food security is the top priority from a humanitarian point of view.
I wouldn't want to think that we would sequentially deal with the three, though. If we leave another generation of girls in Sudan to languish, we're sowing the seeds of.... I think, actually, that girls' education is part of the solution to the political, the social and the community processes. You have to keep them alive, but just keeping them alive in their current context is not enough.
Finally, globally, we need to have not just a reflex but a consistent approach to bringing to account those who commit crimes against children. These are heinous, disgusting crimes that we're talking about, and they're systematic. If we're not collectively outraged by that and if we don't ensure when we create mechanisms for monitoring that they include expertise in child investigation and gender investigation, then they'll just continue.
I don't think we can deal with them one at a time, but the first one is food to keep these children alive.
I think there's very little to add. I can talk a bit about it.
You're right. It is an incredibly complex situation, and I think we see parallels across all three countries and actually across all of the conflict in failing or failed states. We have underlying issues with inequality, with climate change and often with poor governance that results in root causes and in conflict. What we are seeing and what we're talking about are the impacts of that, right?
People are forced from their land, so then they need food, but because they've been forced from their land, they're not able to do basic agriculture work. They're not able to get set up for the next harvest season. At the same time, in South Sudan we had an economy that was in the tank. We had inflation rates of 161%. Even if you had money, you couldn't necessarily buy food. I heard testimony from people there that they held on to soap instead of cash, because their money just wasn't worth it. Holding on to soap was at least giving them some sort of asset that they might be able to sell down the line.
Ultimately, we need to tackle these root causes and to find a political solution to the conflict, but knowing that it's not going to happen in the immediate term, what we need to make sure of is the right services. I'm not going to argue on education or sexual reproductive health, because they're all needed in a place like South Sudan. What we really need to be focusing on are those local actors and on ensuring that we have the right funding and that it's going through to local national organizations, because they're going to be able to maintain it.