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Conflict forces millions of children in South Sudan to flee homes says UN

South Sudan's civil war has forced over 1 million children to flee the country while another million are internally displaced, UN agencies say. Officials have warned that the future of an entire generation is at risk.

The latest figures on the conflict in South Sudan show that the civil war has hit children especially hard, two United Nations agencies said on Monday.

Over 1 million children have fled the country and another million are currently displaced within South Sudan, the UNHCR and the UN children's fund UNICEF said in a statement.

The figures show "how devastating this conflict has been for the country's most vulnerable," said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF's Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.

"The future of a generation is truly on the brink," she warned.

Children comprise 62 percent of the more than 1.8 million South Sudanese refugees who have arrived in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan, the UN statement said. Over 75,000 of those children are alone or without their families.

"No refugee crisis today worries me more than South Sudan," said Valentin Tapsoba, Africa director for UNHCR. "That refugee children are becoming the defining face of this emergency is incredibly troubling."

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Children at risk

The situation for children still living in South Sudan remains bleak. Nearly three quarters of children do not go to school in South Sudan, making it the highest out-of-school population in the world, the UN statement said.

South Sudan's civil war began two years after the country won independence from neighboring Sudan, when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy in 2013.

The fighting that followed divided the country along ethnic lines, prompted hyperinflation and plunged areas of the country into famine.

An official famine was declared in two South Sudanese counties in February this year. Around 100,000 people are currently facing a famine and 1 million are on the brink of famine.

The UN agencies said over a thousand children have been killed due to the fighting, but the actual figure may be much higher since no accurate death tolls are available for South Sudan.

rs/rt (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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