April 8 2011

South Sudan: Children returned to SOS Children's Village

08/04/2011 - Children and staff have now returned to the SOS Children's Village in Malakal which they had to flee due to the deadly clashes on the SOS compound on 12 March. Increased safety is insured by round-the-clock guards at the SOS Children’s Village. The administrative building and the village hall are temporarily rearranged for the two families whose houses were seriously damaged.

Photo: SOS Archives
The children were able to return to the SOS Children's Village in Malakal - Photo: SOS Archives
With two policemen day and night guarding the village, the return to the village was the preferred option for the 103 children and SOS co-workers. After a thorough cleaning of the village and after supplies were distributed, the ten families could go back. As all construction materials need to be sent by barge from Khartoum, renovation will take some time, moreover as the rainfall season from March to May makes transportation by road very difficult.

The return of the children coincides with the new start of the school year on 15 April. All children are getting ready for the first day of school and enjoy the last moments of free time playing inside the village.

The Malakal market recovered from last month clashes too, despite additional traders from the North closing their business and leaving for the North.

Fragile situation in South Sudan

The situation is altogether very fragile with heightened insecurity conditions in the western part of Upper Nile, which capital city is Malakal. This makes people fear for the market restocking with cereals that are much needed during the April - July lean season. The cropping season is due for May - July. Violence is expected to decrease with the heavy rain as moving around South Sudan becomes very difficult in a country the size of France with less that 50 km paved road.

As South Sudan prepares to form a new nation in just over 100 days (official proclamation day of independence on 9 July 2011), the situation of displaced persons and returnees, including south Sudanese children without parental care in the North, is a concern.

About 80,000 people fled violence in the region of Upper Nile between January and March; some 34,000 southern Sudanese have also fled their homes after tribal clashes over land, water and cattle in the last few weeks. Adding to the southern troubles before independence in July are the 264,000 returnees who have flocked to the south since October (UN Sources).

Fate of displaced children a concern

Movements of children without parental care, including separated and unaccompanied children of southern Sudanese origin who currently live in North Sudan is been studied by the National Council for Child Welfare in northern Sudan and the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Welfare in southern Sudan. A first estimation would reach 2,000; finding strategies for their return is the objective of a recent joint mission of the authorities. The parents of those children moved North during the North-South civil war that ended in 2005.

Ahead of the region’s independence in July, South Sudan’s ten states announced that the review of South Sudan’s interim constitution of 2005 is completed, with the draft report to be published in a week or so.

It is also to be mentioned that the mandate for the peacekeeping mission known as UNMIS expires on 30 April. It comes as the U.N. Security Council begins considering the mission's future after Southern Sudan secession.