In early July, violence forced SOS Families to flee the SOS Village in Juba, the state capital, and move to rented homes in a safer area of the city. Today, there are 128 children who are cared for by 10 SOS Mothers, seven SOS Aunts and 16 staff. Most of the children are with their SOS Families at two rented homes, while 24 youth are staying at a boarding school.
In the following Q&A, Richard Wani, the Village Director for the SOS Village in Juba, talks about how the political conflict in South Sudan has affected SOS programs and how the children and families are coping.
How are the children managing in their temporary homes?
They are all in good health, and we are taking steps to improve their access to medical care. For example, all the children were vaccinated against cholera. We have set up a dispensary and procured medicines, and we are working on contracting with a doctor and hiring a nurse.
All the children are attending school, and the toddlers are in day care. One immediate challenge we have is to find alternative universities for three of our students. Some universities in South Sudan have closed due to the conflict, and it is unclear when they will reopen. We are considering options in Egypt, Uganda, Kenya and Sudan.
Are the SOS families receiving emotional support?
The fighting was so close to the SOS Village, and the children were traumatized by the fighting and explosions. Some children are now afraid of anyone in a soldier’s uniform or carrying a gun. Others are experiencing nightmares. We are dealing with this situation by providing psychological and emotional support and counseling. This is done in partnership with local NGOs.
When do you expect the SOS families will be able to return to the village in Juba?
SOS Mothers and their children at the SOS Village in Malakal, South Sudan, the original site of SOS Village before it was evacuated due to violence in 2014.
The village has been cleaned, and an assessment of the damages in the houses was completed. However, the area is heavily militarized so it is unlikely that much will happen this year. This was the most affected area of Juba during the recent fighting. The presence of soldiers further confirms that the area is not safe. For now, the mothers and children are very reluctant to move back into the village.
Were there activities in the SOS Village that are not available to the children now?
There was a library that the children and young people used after school, on weekends, and during holidays. We also watched movies and held discussions to improve the children’s English skills.
Unfortunately, we have no space in our temporary houses for a library, and the television set was among the items looted during the recent fighting.
News reports say food prices have skyrocketed. Do the families have access to sufficient food?
Prices for food and other commodities prices are rising because of shortages and currency fluctuations. Despite this, our families are able to buy the food they need and we have stocked up on reserves. We get water deliveries that are adequate for our drinking and washing needs.
What is the general mood among co-workers?
There is a good team spirit. Despite the hard times, they remain committed to their work and are executing their tasks and duties as required.
As the Village Director, what are your main concerns at the moment?
I am concerned about the security situation. Juba is now largely calm and people are going about their normal business. But without a political settlement, the situation will remain precarious.
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