After more than 5 years of civil war and peace agreements, signed in September 2018, South Sudan is trying to recover. Nearly 4 million people are still refugees in neighbouring countries or IDPs.
The trauma is still deep, including among young people. About 100 thousand children and adolescents were subjected to brutal violence. Among them are those who are called child soldiers.
We are located in Yambio, capital of Western Equatoria state, in the South of the country. Every morning, dozens of teenagers gather in the Centre of professional training Tinduka, close to the city. This is only a small group of 3,6 thousand children demobilized from armed forces or groups in South Sudan with the assistance of the United Nations. We need to protect them and change their names.
Many of them, like 19-year-old Christian, got there on their own. The militants of the armed group took him at the age of 13 years. 2 years he lived in this hell.
“We slept under the trees. Getting food was difficult – it was necessary to attack people. They ordered us to do bad things. We could kill someone. If you do not, they will kill you. My brother… We were there with my brother. They killed him,” recalls Christian.
Anne was barely 13 when she was snatched on the way to school. He taught her to fight for real. This ordeal lasted over a year.
“When we were there, we beat people, tortured, robbed them. When we were told to shoot people, we had to do it. If you say no, they will be tortured or killed. The girl was tough, because the guys used us as wives”, – says Anna.
Anna is now studying the sewing along with other young girls in the center. Like many of them, she is the mother of a small child. Thanks to her training, Anna hopes to save money to pay for the further education of his son. And his. She dreams of becoming a doctor.Training conducted at the center, only a part of a 3-year program of rehabilitation of former child soldiers, financed by the Service of humanitarian assistance the European Union.
Mathias Eyck, the Service of humanitarian assistance the EU: “meeting the needs of children in South Sudan is one of our main objectives. There are more than two million children who remain aloof from all forms of education. We’re trying to focus on my kids, because I do not want another lost generation, we want to give them some basic education, basic skills so they could participate in rebuilding their country.”
Christian, like other program participants received psychological and social support. It is very important to overcome the trauma of war. Throughout the program, Teens support social workers by helping them to reintegrate into society. In most cases this is not an easy task. Christian was rejected by his father. It took the brother of his late mother.
“When he returned, he was wild. He could not understand. Even I, his uncle, was afraid of him. After he started school, he learned a lot and changed a lot. Now, when he comes, he can greet people as he can smile. This is a big change”, says uncle Christian.
Managed the UNICEF program has changed the lives of Christian, Anne, and many others. But the future of this long-term performance may be compromised due to lack of funds. Meanwhile, thousands of children are still in the hands of armed groups.
Helena Sandbu Ryeng, UNICEF: “This program was not funded for over a year and we used other resources for its continuation. But now all these remedies are exhausted. Therefore, if we can come up with new financing, we may have to close Tengoku and the program in its entirety. If the world will last, we’ll see other children who come out of the woods, they need our help. But without funds we cannot help them properly.”
Christian wants to become a plumber. He knows that his future and that of thousands of other children of the war will depend upon the stability of the still fragile peace process in southern Sudan.
“Not many people are building concrete houses. Because of the war. But if there is peace, everything will be possible”, – said the young man.
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