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May 30, 2013

Goats Keep South Sudan Kids Off Street

by Hou Akot Hou

It's not the usual way to reintegrate kids who have been on the streets into the group dynamic of family life, but in South Sudan they're giving kids goats for just that reason.

And it's working, officials say.

This week, the Social Welfare Ministry and NGO Veterinarians Without Borders, which goes by the French acronym VSF, gave 200 goats to 85 kids as part of a VSF goats-to-kids program.

Since it was launched last year, the program has helped to halve the number of street children in Northern Bahr el Ghazal from around 300 to 150.

The youngsters seem to quickly get used to rearing and handling their caprine charges and use the goats to help ease their family’s financial burdens by selling the kids and products made from or produced from the goats.

The ease of rearing goats also boosts the youngsters' confidence..

“Now I have an idea of rearing (goats) so that all produce more kids and then I sell the rest for personal wants like shoes, and school fees,” said 17-year-old Akot Deng, who has big plans for a better life with the money he thinks he will make from the five goats he received this week.

Kuol Bol Kuol said his nephew, Garang Deng, whom he adopted after the boy's father died, plans to sell goats’ milk and any kids born to the goats. And that should make the family's life easier, Kuol said.

Earlier attempts to reunite street children with their guardians failed because they didn’t provide the children or their families with a means of support.

According to VSF field assistant David Dhieu, the goats-to-kids program operates in five states, in the northern part of South Sudan, and plans to expand  to reach more children and their families.