SOS Mother sitting inside a bedroom with a few of her children.
Despite political and ethnic polarization that has plagued South Sudan for the last six months, the youngest country in the world celebrated three years of independence on 9 July 2014. The streets of the capital, Juba, were lined with troops singing and dancing, carrying banners proclaiming "One People, One Nation".
The world's most fragile state
Meanwhile aid agencies have sounded the alarm that the humanitarian situation in South Sudan, in which close to 5 million people are in need of food assistance, could worsen if the widening funding gap is not addressed. This year, South Sudan was listed in the Fragile States Index as the world’s most fragile state
Despite their desperate situations, South Sudanese found the spirit to celebrate their young country’s independence. Even children from SOS Children’s Villages Malakal, who had to make a terrifying escape from their homes in December 2013, under threat from armed rebels, celebrated at their temporary lodgings in Juba.
A new temporary village
Although South Sudan's future remains uncertain, SOS Children’s Villages is proceeding with the construction of a new temporary village to house the children and families from Malakal, as rebel and government forces have made their old village uninhabitable.
Personal belongings and furniture strewn all over the floor in SOS CV Malakal.
Land in the village of Korok, about 20 minutes from Juba city center, has been leased for two years, allowing for the construction of a temporary village. The new settlement will consist of 15 traditional houses -- 11 SOS family houses, two youth houses, one house for aunts, and one house for the Village Director. There will be a set of six shared bathroom amenities (each with 4 singles) and eight shared external kitchen areas. The homes will be made of wood and mud, and roofed with iron sheets, like other houses commonly found in rural villages in South Sudan.
“We really needed to find a solution for our families,” said Wilhelm Huber, regional director for East Africa.
Attempts to move the families to a safe, stable, new home in Uganda failed.
“The more we went from ministry to ministry trying to obtain travel permits and identity cards for every child, the more we came across red tape and blockage. Nobody is ready to take decisions, nobody cares about 100 children or families; they [government officials] have their heads buried in sorting out the crisis the country is facing right now,” Mr Huber said.
The families will live in the temporary village for about 12-18 months while the new SOS Children’s Village will be constructed.
Family house under construction.
“The area is secure enough – even the UN has offices in the vicinity and their staff reside there,” Mr Huber said. “Our children will be safe here and will also have ample space to play and run around.”
The project should be completed within a month; families are to start moving into their new homes before 10 August, when the lease of their temporary lodgings in Juba expires. The families will live in the temporary village for about 12-18 months until the construction of the new SOS Village is complete.