News / Africa

    Struggling to Heal the Wounds of South Sudan's Children

    • Internally displaced boys stand next to barbed wire inside a United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Juba, Dec. 19, 2013, four days after fighting broke out in the capital city.
    • A woman stands with her daughter in the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic set up at the camp for displaced people in the grounds of the United Nations Mission to South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Juba, South Sudan, where thousands sought shelter from the clashes around South Sudan.
    • A young boy looks through the fence surrounding a safe place for children run by SOS Children's Villages, just outside Malakal in Upper Nile state.
    • Three children walk through a camp for internally displaced persons that was spontaneously set up at the United Nations Mission to South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Juba, Jan. 9, 2014.
    • Children play with a suitcase in a IDP camp for the Nuer ethnic group inside the UNMISS compound in Bor, South Sudan, on February 27, 2014 -- more than a month after the warring sides signed a cessation of hostilities agreement.
    • South Sudanese girls displaced by the fighting collect their laundry from a barbed wire in a camp for displaced persons in the UNMISS compound in Tongping in Juba February 19, 2014.
    • South Sudanese girls sit by a tent in a camp for displaced persons in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Tongping in Juba, February 19, 2014.
    • A young displaced girl washes clothes alongside a row of tents in the United Nations compound in Juba,
    • South Sudanese children at Kiryandongo settlement camp in northern Uganda struggle to carry full jerry cans of water.
    • South Sudan refugees at Kiryandongo settlement camp in Uganda. Uganda has taken in more than 76,000 refugees from South Sudan since unrest broke out there on Dec. 15, 2013.
    South Sudan Conflict Hits Children Hard
    Mugume Davis Rwakaringi
    When fighting broke out in mid-December in Juba, 13-year-old Rejoice Wasuk listened to the constant crackle of gunfire for three days from inside the Confident Children out of Conflict (CCC) compound in Juba, where she lives with dozens of other orphans.

    "When we hear the gunshots, we all come together. We start to pray and we are crying,” Wasuk said.

    She was convinced someone was coming to kill her, and weeks later is still too shaken by the memory today to spend much time outdoors.

    “When I am walking outside there, we remember that... When even I see someone who is going with a gun, I will say that he is coming to shoot me.  So I fear to go to the road,” said Wasuk.
    A young boy stands in front of the tree in a camp for the displaced in Mingkamen, where he and his family fled as violence raked the town of Bor in Jonglei state.A young boy stands in front of the tree in a camp for the displaced in Mingkamen, where he and his family fled as violence raked the town of Bor in Jonglei state.
    x
    A young boy stands in front of the tree in a camp for the displaced in Mingkamen, where he and his family fled as violence raked the town of Bor in Jonglei state.
    A young boy stands in front of the tree in a camp for the displaced in Mingkamen, where he and his family fled as violence raked the town of Bor in Jonglei state.

    CCC Director Cathy Groenendijk said it has been more than two months since the fighting stopped in Juba, but she still has a hard time convincing the children they are safe.

    "They don’t go outside, like to the market, where they used to go before," she told VOA.

    "They stay within the compound and they tell each other not to move up and down. Sometimes, if they hear sporadic shooting, it reminds them of that day,” she said.

    That day was December 15, when political in-fighting in the ruling SPLM party boiled over into violence in Juba.

    The fighting rapidly spread around the country, and continues in parts of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states to this day, in spite of a ceasefire agreement that was signed in January. Thousands have died in the clashes between pro- and anti-government forces, and at the peak of the conflict, more than 900,000 people had fled their homes.

    South Sudan's children witnessed unspeakable acts of brutality during the unrest, Doune Porter, the chief of strategic communications for the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in South Sudan, said.

    “Many of them have seen their parents killed in front of their eyes, or seen relatives, friends, neighbors killed. It’s been devastating for many children,” she said.

    "There are widespread reports of grave violations of humanitarian law, with the effects of the conflict on children particularly devastating," UNICEF said in a statement released Monday.

    "Over the past two months, girls and boys have been killed, maimed, raped, orphaned, recruited into armed groups, and made homeless," the U.N. agency said.

    Half of the nearly 900,000 people who have been forced from their homes in South Sudan are children, and many of them have been separated from their parents as they fled violence in their villages.

    Porter said children need special attention to recover from trauma, but South Sudan doesn't have trained psychologists to help them get over what they've been through.
    There are widespread reports of grave violations of humanitarian law, with the effects of the conflict on children particularly devastating.

    So the U.N. and NGOs like CCC do what they can for the children.

    Child-friendly spaces have been set up at the U.N. Mission in South Sudan compounds in Juba where "young children can go and play and sing and do some basic learning," Porter said.

    UNICEF is working with partner organizations to trace children who have been separated from their families in the fighting and is providing basic education facilities in areas where there are large groups of displaced families because, it says, education is "a vital step for children whose lives have been so traumatically disrupted."

    But healing will come slowly for children like 11-year-old Kakule Helen, who still runs and hides every time she hears something that sounds like a gunshot. 

    "I hear the gun... I run from here. I am not eating. I go under the bed down there," she said at the CCC compound where she and some 40 other orphaned or abandoned children are being helped to slowly piece together young lives that have already had to endure huge loss and emotional trauma.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.