April 14 2005
SOS Children's Villages to extend child soldiers project in southern Sudan
14/04/2005 - An estimated 4,000 underage children are still enlisted as child soldiers in Sudan, where a January 2005 peace agreement marked the end of a 21-year north-south civil war in the African country. But even when these children are freed, their reintegration into communities is often problematic and hampered by their past histories as child soldiers.
Over the past eight months, SOS Children's Villages, together with the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and local authorities, has been operating a reintegration project for former child soldiers in southern Sudan. Under this programme, situated in Malakal, some 280 underage children were so far reunified with their families.
Following official requests from authorities, this joint programme will be extended and it is planned that a further 200 to 300 former soldiers will be reintegrated into their communities in the future. Eventually, this project will be transformed into an SOS Social Centre for children and families in need.
A large majority of these children were recruited by force when they were as young as eight years of age, to fight in a civil war which raged for more than two decades and claimed more than two million lives. A further four million were reported to have fled from their homes. Hundreds of these children, who were either demobilised or fled the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), found their way to Malakal.
SOS Children's Villages looks after these children, providing them with basic necessities such as nutrition, medication and clothes and, above all, with leisure activities which serve to prepare them for a smooth social reintegration.
In addition to the reintegration programme for child soldiers, SOS Children's Village is also operating an SOS Family Centre at the Abu Shok refugee camp in the conflict-ravaged Darfur region, where hundreds of children and single mothers are receiving basic necessities and trauma therapy.
This project in Darfur will also be expanded to include a second SOS Family Centre. Both centres will be expanded to include so-called "safe areas" where young girls and single mothers can find protection from the high incidence of rape at Abu Shok. Within these areas, mothers will care for their own children as well as for other orphaned and unaccompanied children.
SOS Children's Villages has been carrying out humanitarian work in Sudan for the past 27 years and today operates two children's villages in Khartoum and Malakal, which were founded in 1978 and 2002 respectively. The facility in Khartoum includes an SOS Kindergarten, SOS School for primary and secondary education and an SOS Vocational Training Centre.
In addition, SOS Children's Villages has recently inaugurated a school and social centre in Umbada. The school here is currently providing three shifts of classes for 45 children per shift and may even be extended to three shifts in the near future.