How is SOS Children’s Villages responding to the crisis in Sudan?
Our first priority has been the safety of the children in our care and our staff in Khartoum. The SOS Children’s Village in Khartoum had to be evacuated early on in the conflict after it was occupied by armed forces. Those families – about 70 children and their caregivers – were first relocated to apartments and we have been moving everyone to safer locations outside of the city. We also support families in the community and have been able to use mobile banking services to send them money to help them through this crisis, including being able to leave the city as well.
True to our core mission, we continue to work towards protecting and safeguarding children that are currently in emergency situations. And even in this complex context we provide mental health and psychosocial support to participants in all our programs, to the community and staff to face these unsettling circumstances.
All these efforts could not be possible without the bravery, courage and unyielding commitment of our care workers in the field, putting themselves in harm’s way. I remain humbled and in admiration of their courage and devotion.
SOS Children’s Villages has had a presence in Sudan since the 1970s. We will remain while this conflict persists and we will continue to be there for children, young people and their families to rebuild their lives and heal the trauma of this conflict after it is over.
Does this conflict have an impact on our work in neighboring countries?
More than 730,000 people are currently internally displaced and another 150,000 people have moved from Sudan to neighboring Chad, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Egypt and Ethiopia, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The UN has warned that the number could rise to 800,000 if the violence continues. This could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe at the border. Already, people entering Chad face unsanitary living conditions, with a lack of clean water and no shelter accept for sleeping under trees. We need to be prepared to address a large scale humanitarian crisis.
We must be conscious that neighboring countries may require additional support to provide assistance to these populations. We must work in partnership with all stakeholders and partners on the ground to build on each other’s comparative advantages in view of the daunting challenges ahead, should the situation persist.
How do conflicts such as this one in Sudan impact children without parental care or at risk of losing it?
Conflicts such as this one bring greater instability and uncertainty to a group of children that are already experiencing vulnerabilities and deprivations. Parents in difficult circumstances earn a daily or low wage, which means they eat what is earned on a daily basis. In wartime, amid air strikes and artillery attacks, access to food, water and other basic necessities becomes a deep problem that these families are not equipped to cope with. Under this condition, caregivers would be unable to adequately protect and care for their children.
When fleeing for safety, children at risk of losing parental care can find themselves separated from their families and end up displaced or on the move. Such children are deprived of adult supervision, which puts them in danger of recruitment by armed groups.
The vulnerability of children without parental care or at risk of losing becomes huge. They become the hardest hit because of exploitations, trafficking, and various forms of abuse. And of course this is compounded to the risks of lacking proper access to water, food/ nutrition, education, medical help and emotional support.
How does the Sudan conflict reflect the challenges of working in conflict zones?
Wherever we work, our top priority is to protect and support children without parental care or at risk of growing up alone.
Everywhere we work, we need to cooperate with communities and local authorities. In the context of war and conflict, that can become a challenge, as we usually need to work with governments or groups on opposing sides to be able to carry out our work. This is true in Sudan, where two sides are intensely engaged in hostilities and armed conflict.
SOS Children’s Villages follows the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, independence, and neutrality. We do not take sides in Sudan or in any conflict. We are on the side of children, those who are growing up alone or are at risk of growing up alone. It is in their best interest that we continue to call for the end of armed conflicts.
The critical challenge for us is ensuring the safety and survival of the children, amid violent conflict, by providing timely and adequate life-saving humanitarian assistance. The mission of our federation is the protection of children. Our prime impetus is to ensure their survival and wellbeing. Children are placed in acutely vulnerable situations when violent conflict prevails. We need to respect and protect all children so that we ensure their safety and their rights at all times.
Read our statement: Armed forces take over SOS Children’s Villages’ premises in Khartoum