JUBA, South Sudan—Many of the children at the SOS Village in South Sudan have lost their parents. But during the past three years, they have also lost their homes—twice.
To protect the children from violence erupting from a conflict that began in 2013, SOS Children’s Villages had to evacuate the children from their SOS Village on two separate occasions. Since the conflict began, the children have had to move six times.
Last month, however, the children had reason to celebrate: they returned safely with their SOS Families to their homes at the SOS Village in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
“The children are excited to have their rooms back and have been arranging them with the help of their SOS Mothers,” said Richard Wani, the director of the SOS Village in Juba. “Coming back to the SOS Village means a lot to them.”
When fighting erupted in Juba in July last year, the children and their SOS Families were quickly evacuated for the second time and moved to safety. The first time came in December 2013, when the SOS Village was located in Malakal, in the north near the border with Sudan.
On July 11, 2016, the SOS Village was quickly evacuated due to an imminent threat from violence that gripped the capital city. The evacuation happened so swiftly that some children forgot their toothbrushes.
“Once we had all settled into our new SOS Village in Juba after the fighting in Malakal, we were so happy,” said Nyayual, an SOS Mother in South Sudan. “But then the war started again in July, and this time it was worse.” Another SOS Mother, Mary, recalls hearing the “booms” of constant bombing from planes all around her home.
Since they were evacuated from the SOS Village in July 2016, children and their SOS Families have been living together in temporary homes away from the violence. Thanks to the support of our donors, we have been able to rehabilitate the SOS Village in Juba, which was looted and partially damaged after it was evacuated.
On January 16, the SOS Village in Juba was ready for the children to return.
“The children are much happier since they returned to the SOS Village,” said Mr. Wani. “There is more room to play here and the children have been running around….singing, chasing each other, playing football, and interacting without the space limitation we had before,” he added.
Children play at the SOS Village, happy to return to their homes with their SOS Families.
Although the children have returned, safety in South Sudan is a rare commodity.
Last week, the United Nations issued an urgent appeal for increased financial aid—$1.6 billion for 2017—to provide life-saving aid to people affected by the conflict in South Sudan.
“The humanitarian situation in South Sudan has deteriorated dramatically due to the devastating combination of conflict, economic decline and climatic shocks,” said Mr. Eugene Owusu, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan. “In 2017, we are facing unprecedented needs, in an unprecedented number of locations, and these needs will increase during the upcoming lean season.”
The report added:
“Humanitarian organizations estimate that some 7.5 million people across South Sudan are now in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. Since the conflict in South Sudan began in December 2013, about 3.4 million people have been forced to flee their homes, including nearly 1.9 million people who have been internally displaced and about 1.5 million who have fled as refugees to neighboring countries.”