World Humanitarian Day 2018: Standing with Children in South Sudan
On Sunday, August 19, we recognize World Humanitarian Day – a day where people come together to pay tribute to aid workers around the world, who risk their lives for humanitarian service. This is also a day to stand in solidarity with the thousands of people affected by crises around the world. Among these people are women who face inequality and violence everyday, entire communities who have been forced away from their homes, and children who were born in war. These individuals, along with those who willingly stand beside them, are the people we recognize today.
Stolen Childhoods in South Sudan
At CMMB, we strive to bring healthier lives to women, children, and their communities. Unfortunately, instability and increased conflict facing many of the communities we work in, has made this task even more challenging and at times, dangerous.
In South Sudan, the ongoing civil war has resulted in widespread devastation – lost loved ones and large scale displacement are among the many atrocities the people of South Sudan have faced.
Arguably, one of the most painful realities of conflict is its impact on children. Since the start of the civil war in South Sudan, it is estimated that more than 19,000 children have been recruited as child soldiers.
Advocacy and peace measures have resulted in the start of what will be a long process of releasing and reuniting former child soldiers with their families. But, even after children are released they face a long journey to recovery. Their journey begins at the child transit center. It is here that children receive specialized therapy, support, and education. After three months at the center, children begin yet another process – the process of reintegrating back into the community where they continue to receive psycho-social support and therapy.
CMMB has remained active in efforts involving the release and reintegration of former child soldiers. World Humanitarian Day comes just days after the third release of child soldiers just outside of Yambio, South Sudan, where 128 young boys and girls were released from armed forces on August 7.
The Official Release
The official ceremony marks the next phase of reintegration for the released children, their families, and their communities. During the ceremony, CMMB participated in screening services and supported psycho-social support, sensitization, awareness, and prevention services among children and caregivers. Additionally, the team participated in assessments and registration for family tracing and reunification.
While CMMB remains present at each stage of the reintegration process, its support is primarily happening at the community level – once children have left the transit center and are returned to their communities and families.
Unfortunately, for some, returning home is not possible. CMMB is working with UNICEF to strengthen ongoing reintegration efforts but also, to organize foster placements for children who cannot return to their own families. Despite the long road to reintegration and recovery, these former child soldiers are finally given the chance to take back their childhoods – to eventually return to their communities, go to school, and become children again.
Unfortunately, while efforts have been made to reintegrate former child soldiers and reunite them with their families, there is still much to be done. Although children are slowly being released, the threat of more being taken is still very much alive.
As an organization active in the humanitarian sphere, we join the #NotATarget movement and demand world leaders do everything in their power to protect all civilians in conflict zones. We especially stand with those who have lost their childhoods to conflict and violence. Children, who even with the best support and therapy, will struggle to remember what it was like to be a carefree child. CMMB and partners like UNICEF are doing the best we can to remind them.