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These South Sudan Children, As Old As Their Country, Only Know A Life Of War And Hunger

09/07/2014 07:13 BST | Updated 09/07/2014 07:59 BST

For these six children, who are the same age as their country, their short lives have been fraught with violence, hunger and sickness.

Three years ago, the mothers and fathers of South Sudan looked at their newborns and hoped their children would have an independent future which was not blighted by war.

But on the third anniversary of the declaration of independence, some 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to fighting, including nearly 400,000 people who are refugees in neighbouring countries.

Save the Children asked the parents whose children were born on the eve of independence to speak about the lives their now three-year-olds have endured, and the future they hope they will have. Names have been changed.

Save The Children South Sudan

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Few international donors have answered the call to help. The UN's $1.8bn/£1.06bn appeal is so far less than half funded. The aid effort is hampered not only by a lack of funds but also insecurity and poor roads and in some areas airdrops are the only way aid can get to people. World Vision estimates that a quarter of a million children in South Sudan are at risk of severe malnutrition.

Mark Goldring, Oxfam's Chief Executive said: "We will be staring into the abyss and fail to avert a famine if funds do not start arriving soon. This is a not a crisis caused by drought or flood. It is a political crisis turned violent.

"The people of South Sudan can only put their lives back together once the fighting ends. In the meantime civilians caught up in this crisis not of their making will need generous international help."

Aimee Ansari, Care International's Country Director in South Sudan said: "On the day I left Bentiu, CARE transported the bodies of three children who had died from malnutrition to a burial site. It was a brutal demonstration of the impact both of the insecurity and the lack of funding."

Tearfund reports the number of malnourished children and mothers needing food from its six feeding centres in remote communities in Jonglei, one of the country's worst affected states, has more than quadrupled compared to this time last year, something its country director Kathleen Rutledge called "unprecedented".

Amnesty International’s Elizabeth Ashamu Deng called the situation "catastrophic".

"Women and girls have been raped or abducted and several of South Sudan’s largest towns are now deserted after homes and other civilian property have been destroyed," she said.

Pete Walsh, Save the Children's Country Director in South Sudan, said its feeding clinics are dealing with an influx of severely malnourished children. "They need help and if we wait any longer, I fear all hope will be lost," he said.