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SOS families in South Sudan welcome ceasefire

Days before the ceasefire, reports revealed the fear in South Sudan
Days before the ceasefire, reports revealed the fear in South Sudan

After weeks of violent conflict, a ceasefire agreement was signed last Thursday by South Sudan's government and rebels. The ceasefire came into effect on Friday 24th January as a result of peace delegations in Ethiopia's capital. A few days before the agreement, our colleague in South Sudan reported the tense situation in the SOS Children's Village.

Home to about 100 children, 40 young people and 30 staff, SOS Children's Village Malakal is in a region badly affected by fighting which erupted in South Sudan in mid-December. Across the country, more than 500,000 people were forced from their homes. In Malakal, 40,000 people sought refuge in a UN camp.  Fortunately, everyone in the SOS Village in Malakal remains safe. 

Paul Boyle is one of the SOS staff who is working to ensure the continued safety of the children and staff in Malakal. Last week we were able to talk to Paul, who has been coordinating the SOS emergency response in South Sudan. 

After assessing the situation in Malakal, Paul's team and the SOS Mothers decided to keep the children in the Village. SOS Mothers in Malakal said, “We must protect our children”. They feared that if they left the Village, the buildings would be looted and occupied. Paul asked the UN to check on the families living at the SOS Children's Village Malakal every day. 

Getting food to SOS Village

“We know exactly what we need,” said Paul, about the supplies needed by the SOS Children's Village in Malakal. However, getting the supplies to Malakal is not straight-forward and would involve hiring a six-tonne plane. 

Last week, Paul said: “When the air space opens up, I want to purchase food and put it on a plane, because if we have two months of food we can survive; right now we are down to 10 days. The UN is caring for over 100,000 people, so to rely on them is very difficult. We need to rely on ourselves.” 

Now that a ceasefire has been implemented, it is hoped channels will open up to transport food and essential supplies to the Village. 

South Sudan Malakal

A tense situation

While there is hope that the ceasefire will bring an end to the violence, painful memories are likely to linger. Although everyone in SOS Children's Village Malakal is safe, the Village was directly affected. On Saturday 18 January rebels entered the Village and stole a vehicle, mobile phones and money. The rebels threatened the Village director, and were about to search the houses until dissuaded from doing so by SOS staff, who convinced them that the village was indeed a children’s home.

The streets of Malakal continue to display the signs of a recent violent conflict. Fighting erupted in South Sudan after a political power struggle, which increasingly took on an ethnic dimension. The UN estimates that up to 10,000 people have been killed. Talks will reconvene between the South Sudanese government and rebels on 7 February, after various essential peace-keeping mechanisms have been set up in the country.

We have provided a loving home for children in Malakal for over a decade. Learn more about our work in South Sudan and how you can help.