Last week, SOS families seeking shelter at the United Nations Mission's base (UNMISS) in Malakal were evacuated to safety in the capital Juba due to increasingly dangerous conditions. However, February's chaos meant that SOS youth leader and acting Village Director Isaac James was forced to flee the Village with around thirty children. Five of these children were able to rejoin their families in other parts of the country. The others made their way northeast to the town of Paloich. This week, they were able to fly to Juba from Paloich airport, which means that almost all SOS families are now reunited in the capital.
Recovering well after a terrible ordeal
We are delighted to report that the children are recovering well from their ordeal in Malakal. Since late December, the city has become a key battleground in the conflict between government forces and rebel fighters. It is now the headquarters of the insurgents in Upper Nile state; a strategically important region due to its plentiful oil reserves.
The rebels caused carnage upon reaching Malakal. They made the hospital their headquarters, allegedly killing patients in their beds if they were unable to buy their lives with money or possessions. Many citizens lost their lives, including women and children. Young girls and women were raped. Acting Village Director Isaac James was robbed at gunpoint, while another youth leader, Olyek Odhong, was kidnapped by the rebels and held captive for eight days. Against all the odds, he was rescued and taken back to UNMISS in Malakal.
Amidst the chaos, our team did all they could to protect SOS families. We evacuated the majority of families to UNMISS. However, Isaac and his group were unable to join the others, fleeing across the river and making their way northeast to Paloich.
Planning for the future
We are making our families as comfortable as possible in their new surroundings. They are living together in a large, secure house in the capital with new furnishings so that everyone can enjoy some luxury after all they have endured. We are running a small clinic to speed up children's physical and psychological recovery and keep everyone healthy. We hope to provide a long-term home for the children at our Children's Village in Gulu, Uganda, and have begun the necessary legal steps to ensure this happens as soon as possible. We are also in touch with schools in Juba so that the children get back into education as soon as possible.
The recent violence in South Sudan is causing chaos, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes and devastating communities. We have been there for South Sudan's most vulnerable children for over a decade, and will remain long after the conflict comes to an end. Find out more.