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The Really Good Reason There Are 700 Bears on This Cathedral in London

Matt Crossick/PA Wire via World Vision

Hundreds of toy bears have been arranged on the steps of London’s most iconic cathedral to raise awareness of child refugees fleeing South Sudan’s civil war. 

Every one of the 700 bears represents one of the unaccompanied, separated, and at-risk children who are crossing South Sudan’s border into Uganda every week. 

A growing but underreported refugee crisis is threatening Uganda, which is home to largest refugee settlement camp in the world — named Bidi Bidi. 

READ MORE: George Clooney is Shedding Light on the Crisis No One is Talking About

St Paul's Cathedral Bears World Vision 2Image: Matt Crossick/PA Wire via World Vision

“In a gentle way, we’re trying to highlight something that is incredibly serious,” said Tim Pilkington, CEO of World Vision UK, the charity behind Thursday’s #BearsonStairs publicity campaign. 

“Due to hunger and conflict in South Sudan, close to a million people have fled to Uganda. It’s the children that are the most vulnerable, and the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable are those children who have been separated from their family. 

“They’ve fled awful situations, and yet they’re alone.”

He added: “This is a silent tragedy that needs to become more public.” 

Psychologists and child welfare experts who work in the Bidi Bidi and Imvepi refugee settlements of Uganda say nearly all children arriving in the country are in need of psychological first aid. 

Most of these children have suffered and witnessed terrible brutality as the civil war in South Sudan intensifies. 

READ MORE: Here’s What People Eat in Food-Insecure Africa

Bears St Paul's Cathedral World Vision 3Image: Matt Crossick/PA Wire via World Vision

“Game of Thrones” actor Liam Cunningham witnessed the reality of life in these refugee camps, after visiting Uganda with World Vision. 

“I have watched the war weary and hungry from South Sudan arrive into a welcoming Uganda,” he said. 

“They are images I won’t soon forget. I urge the international community to move quickly to share responsibility for this crisis. Those that say it’s not our problem, are the problem.”