July 8 2011

Strongly committed to the children of South Sudan

08/07/2011 - Most of the people in South Sudan have high expectations for the founding of the new state on 9 July and hope for a better life. But there is also widespread uncertainty on the transition process and the beginning of a new nation. SOS Children's Villages will of course continue and intensify its work for children and families.

Photo: Conor Ashleigh
Destroyed window in the SOS Children's Village in Malakal after fighting on the village compound in 2011 - Photo: Conor Ashleigh
SOS Children's Villages has been working in South Sudan for more than ten years. The consequences of the civil war, which lasted several decades and only just ended in 2005, are especially grave for the people in the South. The war, which lasted from 1955 until 1972 and flared up again in 1983, has had devastating effects on the living conditions of the children in Sudan. The population lived in constant fear and deprivation, particularly in the south of the country. It was in view of this situation that SOS Children's Villages started discussions with the government of Sudan in 1975 on the start of child care programmes. Three years later, the SOS Children's Village in Khartoum and a kindergarten were opened. In the years to follow, numerous new social and educational programmes were launched; another SOS Children's Village was put into operation in Malakal in the south of Sudan in 2002.

Photo: Conor Ashleigh
In one of the SOS family houses in Malakal - Photo: Conor Ashleigh
50 years of war

Again and again, hundreds of thousands of people - especially children - had to suffer the impact of war, droughts and floods. SOS Children's Villages has repeatedly started emergency relief activities in the North and in the South, such as nutrition programmes, medical care or construction of a well and shelters.
In 2004, when lasting peace began to seem likely after 50 years of war, SOS Children's Villages launched another emergency relief programme close to Malakal. In cooperation with other NGO's, SOS Children's Villages began a project that focused on the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers. The traumatised children received psychological support, were given the chance to complete an education and were prepared for the return to civilian life. A majority of them returned to their families and communities by the end of 2009.

Photo: Conor Ashleigh
At the entrance of the SOS Children's Village in Malakal which has to be renovated - Photo: Conor Ashleigh
Challenges for a young nation

South Sudan was an autonomous region from 1972 to 1983 and since 2005. South Sudan's infrastructure is underdeveloped in every aspect, be it food supply, the education system, medical care or public roads. The young nation faces enormous challenges if it is to offer its weary population any kind of perspective for the future. The imminent secession of South Sudan, the changes that go along with it as well as ancient, barely subdued conflicts have led to violent conflicts and attacks on the civilian population throughout the last months, especially in the border region between the North and the South. In March of 2011, even the SOS Children's Village was caught in the line of fire and had to be evacuated.
The independence of South Sudan makes necessary the founding of a new SOS Children's Villages association that will manage the existing programmes in Malakal as well as initiate new ones. Up until now, the office of SOS Children's Villages in Karthoum was in charge of all activities in the Sudan. There are some 100 children currently living in SOS families in Malakal; 25 adolescents in the local SOS Youth Facility. Feasibility studies and need assessments for children without parental care and families in urgent need of help in other areas of South Sudan are being prepared.