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South Sudan fighting: SOS Village affected

Our SOS Village was caught up in the violence, but no one was hurt
Our SOS Village was caught up in the violence, but no one was hurt

On Christmas Eve, the violence in South Sudan reached Malakal in Upper Nile province, where our Children's Village is located. Although rebel soldiers passed through the Village during four days of fighting in Malakal, no SOS families or staff were harmed.

All SOS families stayed indoors during this period to escape the violence. Our team in Malakal initially considered evacuating children and mothers to the UNMISS base in Juba for extra protection. However, as the situation worsened, it became too dangerous to move families out of the Village and through the streets of Malakal.

Instead, we did all we could to secure the site against the fighting so that families would be safe inside. As the violence continued, rebel soldiers used the Village as an escape route and were wounded as they passed through. Fortunately, no SOS families or staff were hurt.

Staying alert

Our team in Nairobi, capital of South Sudan's south-eastern neighbour Kenya, are monitoring the situation carefully to ensure we are ready to act internationally to keep families and staff safe. They are also in touch with the UN.

Malakal 54456
Our Children's Village in Malakal on an ordinary day

People are reported to be wounded at the UNMISS base in the capital Juba. Food and water is also said to be limited, as well as toilets and shelters for the 22,000 people seeking shelter at the base. The UN is acting to address the growing scale of the crisis.

Malakal today

Our team in Malakal tell us that shops and banks have been looted, and hundreds of barrels of fuel burnt. Kiros Aregawi, Project Manager at our Children's Village, reflects on concerns over food shortages and renewed violence in Malakal: “There is a fear that there will be a shortage of food items in the town and that the rebel group may regroup themselves and attack again.”

Our Children's Village in Malakal has been caught up in violence before. Soldiers entered the Village during an outbreak of violence in 2011, firing guns and leaving bullet holes in the walls. On this occasion, the Village had been evacuated and no one was injured.

We began work in Malakal in 2002. After independence in 2011, it became our only Children's Village in South Sudan, the world's youngest and one of its poorest countries. During the civil war, we were instrumental in providing relief to those affected and helping child soldiers return to normality. Malakal, then in Sudan, was at the heart of this work. Today, we provide care to as many as 100 children who have lost their families, and support vulnerable families across the city.

Find out more about our work in South Sudan...

South Sudan mapThe crisis in brief

What is the cause of the violence?

  • South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, after 22 years of civil war culminating in peace talks in 2005.
  • However, land rights and oil remained sources of dispute within South Sudan.
  • An ongoing cattle-raiding feud between the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups in Jonglei province has come to a head in the current crisis.
  • President Salwar Kiir of the dominant Dinka group alleges his former deputy Riek Machar attempted to stage a coup in early December.
  • Fighting broke out on the streets of Juba, the capital city, between government forces and rebels under the leadership of Mr Machar.
  • Violence spread throughout the country, particularly affecting Jonglei province, where the cattle-raiding feud is most pronounced.
  • The provincial capital Bor, and Bentiu, the capital of Unity Province, have fallen into rebel hands.

The bigger picture

  • At least 1,000 people have been killed since December.
  • Just short of 200,000 people have fled their homes.
  • Reports of mass killings based on ethnicity.
  • Juba is no longer the focus of the violence. Jonglei and Unity Provinces are currently worst affected by heavy fighting.
  • UN has 7,500 troops in South Sudan.
  • Militias have taken possession of a UN food warehouse in Bentiu and UN vehicles in Bor, hampering the delivery of aid.
  • Peace talks have begun in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Find out more about our work in South Sudan...