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Years of conflict and natural disasters mean that Sudan is one of the world's least-developed countries. Children suffer from extremely limited chances and are at risk of trafficking and child labour. We help families in Khartoum provide children with the best start in life and offer a loving home to those with no one else. … more about our charity work in Sudan

The children from South Sudan

The children from South Sudan

Australian photographer Conor Ashleigh recently returned from Sudan and shares his experiences.

" I recently visited the SOS Children's Village in Malakal. Malakal is the capital city of Upper Nile State in the soon to be independent nation of South Sudan.

In March heavy fighting took place in Malakal, leaving 13 people dead. Several buildings, including a number of the homes inside the SOS Children's Village where fighters took up positions, were destroyed by incoming SPLA fire. Despite the recent conflict that left obvious scars in the Malakal SOS Children's Village, I was warmly welcomed by the Village Director Mr. Alwock Dok, his team and also by the mothers who care for the children in the SOS families.

The SOS Children's VillagSudan mape in Malakal is made up of nine homes with each one having a full time resident mother who cares for a family of orphaned children ranging in age from newborn babies through to 13-year-old teenagers. Once the teenagers reach 14 years of age they then graduate to the SOS Youth Homes. Nine young women live in a house inside the SOS compound while 16 young men live in two houses situated out in the community.

During my stay I was able to meet many of the young people. One of the most impressive young adults I met was Clemantina, a 16-year-old student who hopes to go on to study medicine at the University of Juba once she has finished school. Faiza Younis,the leader of girls Youth Home told me that last year Clemantina received the best marks in her entire year - a result of her tireless studying. Clementina feels happy about South Sudan becoming independent and she hopes that it's a real chance to take people away from war and give people their freedom and rights. Clementina was amongst the first group of orphaned children to join the SOS Children's Village in 2002 when it was opened.

The homes of the SOS Children's Village in Malakal provide a nurturing family environment for the 92 children; many of the recent babies arriving at the Village have been a result of death during child birth. Baby Salva Kir, named after the President of South Sudan, was brought to the SOS Children's Village in December 2010 after being abandoned in a hospital in a town called Renk, 200 km from Malakal.

The SOS Children's Village seemed to be recovering positively from the fighting that took place in the compound during March. However there is an obvious sense of unease surrounding the future of life after independence. While visiting the SOS Children's Village I witnessed the SOS mothers talking about how rising food prices for basic staples including sugar has jumped from 2 to 5 pounds per packet and is overburdening their regular family budget.

Boy and girl, SOS CV Malakal
Siblings at the SOS Children's Village Malakal, Sudan

With independence only days away, uncertainty is common and there remain many unanswered questions about the fundamentals of life after independence. In Malakal the mothers of the SOS Children's Village were worried about the cost of living once the South is officially separated from the North. There are concerns that oil pipelines might be restricted even further, leading to even further price hikes, that basic food supplies from the north might not get through and that bank transfers from the North might be blocked.

The SOS Children's Village in Malakal was a brilliant example of a supportive community project that creates genuine family environments for orphaned children. For children who reach their teenage years there are great opportunities to pursue their studies in secondary school and then transition into independent living as an adult through life in the young adult homes. The independence of South Sudan is a historic moment for the people of the South who have witnessed so much hardship over the decades of war. But despite the uplifting celebrations planned for July 9th there are also many hurdles the new nation must face in order to prosper as a new nation"

Read more about how South Sudan's independence will affect our projects.

At present there are two SOS Children's Villages in Sudan, one SOS Youth Home, one SOS Nursery, one SOS School and one SOS Vocational Training Centre.