Government officials and rebel leaders struck a ceasefire deal in late January, and South Sudan has enjoyed relative calm since, albeit punctuated by sporadic fighting. However, violence began once again in Malakal on Tuesday (18th February). Speaking to Reuters news agency on Tuesday, the commander of the rebel forces in Upper Nile Province claimed that the rebels had seized Malakal. The South Sudanese government denies this.
What are we doing to ensure the safety of our children?
Kiros Aregawi, the Project Manager of our SOS Village in Malakal, reports that fighting in the city is heavy and coming from different directions. The situation is fluid and unpredictable, and we are taking a number of steps to keep our children safe.
Some are seeking refuge from the worst of the fighting in the nearby Catholic church, and others are sheltering at the UN Mission base in Malakal (UNMISS). The city lies on the eastern bank of the White Nile, and an SOS youth leader has taken some of the children across the river to relative safety. Some SOS families have chosen to remain in the Village.
Mr Aregawi is in discussion with the UN Mission to arrange the erection of tents at the UNMISS camp to house SOS families, as well as young adults in our care. In previous weeks, we have avoided moving children to UNMISS due to overcrowding. Given the current danger, this now appears to be the safest option. We are constantly reviewing the situation to determine the best course of action for our families.
South Sudan today
Malakal, which is the capital of Upper Nile Province, is a strategically important hub in South Sudan's oil-producing heartland. It is located around 90 miles from the Paloch oil complex, and is the main city on South Sudan's oil fields. It is vitally important to the government as oil makes up 98% of state revenue. The fighting has led to a 20% cut in oil production.
Peace talks in Ethiopia had led to a ceasefire agreement on 23rd January. Despite outbreaks of violence, South Sudan had seen a period of relative calm since the ceasefire. A second round of peace talks were due to resume in Ethiopia last week. However, they were delayed by rebel demands for the release of prisoners and the withdrawal of the pro-government Ugandan military from South Sudan.
The conflict in brief
The fighting began in November, when President Kiir claimed his former deputy, whom he had sacked several months earlier, staged an attempted coup. Violence has raged between the government and rebel forces ever since. Malakal has become a key focus in recent weeks.
This has led to a disastrous humanitarian situation:
- 716,100 people have been forced to leave their homes but remain within the country.
- Upper Nile Province is one of the worst-affected areas. 121,800 of these internally displaced people come from Upper Nile.
- 156,800 people are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
- 302,500 people displaced within South Sudan have received some form of aid.
- 75,300 people are living in UN camps.
How you can help
SOS Children has worked in Malakal for twelve years, long before South Sudan gained independence. We provide ongoing care for children who have lost their parents, offering a safe, happy childhood and the very best opportunities as they grow up. We also support some of the most vulnerable families in the community so that they are able to care for their own children.
You can help by sponsoring a child. This way, you can be sure a child with no one else will grow up in a loving family:
Alternatively, learn more about our work in South Sudan.