Despite the ceasefire signed on 23 January 2014 between the Government of South Sudan and rebels loyal to the former vice president, Riek Machar, fighting resumed in the town of Malakal on the morning of 18 February. Malakal is the capital of Upper Nile state, strategically important because of its links to oil revenues. It is also the location of an SOS Children's Village - home to over 120 children and young people, together with SOS mothers and other co-workers.
According to Kiros Aregawi, the project manager for the SOS Children’s Village in Malakal, an unnamed source claimed that the fighting was very heavy and coming from three different directions. While some families have remained in the SOS Children's Village, others have taken refuge in a local Catholic church or are sheltering at the UN Mission for South Sudan (UNMISS) base, which is already harbouring thousands of displaced persons. In addition, an SOS youth leader has taken some of the children across the River Nile to relative safety.
Mr Aregawi, who is currently in Juba, has held discussions with the Civilian Protection Officer at UNMISS Malakal, and arrangements are underway to erect tents to house SOS families and youth. However, transport to the base, especially now that fighting has resumed, is a challenge.
Mr. Aregawi and his team are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of the children and SOS co-workers.