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Despite commitments by the warring parties in South Sudan to implement the peace agreement signed in August 2015, violent conflict continues. After over two years of war, the country’s infrastructure has been left devastated and the people of South Sudan continue to face a humanitarian crisis. The impact of the war on South Sudanese women and girls has been particularly horrific. Amidst the extraordinary rates of forced displacement, pervasive violence and breakdown of rule of law in many location, an estimated 32,000 South Sudanese women and girls are exposed to the risk of sexual violence.

There is a clear correlation between food insecurity, fuel and resource needs and gender-based violence (GBV) in South Sudan (See: South Sudan GBV Cluster, (2014) ‘Between a Rock and a hard place: Why we need to invest in GBV in food crisis? The Link between Food Security and Conflict Related Sexual Violence in South Sudan’). There are consistent and widespread reports of women and girls being raped, abducted and murdered as they leave the relative safety of camps, in order to access water, food, firewood or shelter materials (Alison Giffin et al. “Will they Protect US for the Next 10 Years: Challenges Faced by the UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan,” Stimson Center ,November 2014 p. 22).

Read more: Women Peacekeeping Teams working to end gender-based violence

borftr2edited“I never thought I would see my children ever again, neither did I think my children were still alive. I am the happiest man in the world and thank you humanitarians for making this possible. I will forever be grateful” – Father in South Sudan.

On 15 December 2013, conflict engulfed South Sudan and the country was split along ethnic lines. In Bor, there were extremely violent clashes in which both Dinka and Nuer civilians were targeted and killed. Large areas of Bor were destroyed and nearly the entire population displaced. A large population of predominately displaced Nuer civilians sought protection in the United Nations base – known now as a Protection of Civilian site (PoC). Since the beginning of the year, Bor Town has witnessed the slow return of displaced Dinka civilians; however, the Nuer population has remained fearful of moving outside the protection site.

Since the conflict began, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) has registered a large number of separated and unaccompanied children in the Bor protection site. Many of these children have been separated from their families and caregivers since the start of the civil war. NP works continuously to reunify these unaccompanied children with their families.

Recently, NP successfully reunified 18 separated and unaccompanied children from the Bor protection site with their parents in Akobo, Jonglei State. This can be a treacherous journey as it requires moving the children through both government and opposition-controlled territories. However, we were able to ensure the reunification ran smoothly, by working closely and coordinating with local authorities, UNICEF, and Save the Children.

Read more: 18 Children Safely Returned to Parents in South Sudan

In September 2015, Nonviolent Peaceforce South Sudan conducted a Capacities and Vulnerabilities Assessment (CVA) in Wau Shilluk, Malakal County, Upper Nile State. This assessment is an important first step to identify the site’s security so Nonviolent Peaceforce can effectively design a new targeted protection program to maximize positive impact for local populations.

The mission led by Nonviolent Peaceforce's Britt Sloan (Area Program Coordinator, Border Region) and Yannick Creoff (Protection Officer) was conducted as a protection assessment in advance of proposed NP programming on the west bank of the Nile. NP had previously visited Wau Shilluk in May 2015. The CVA aimed to further investigate changes in the local context of the village, deepen understanding of community dynamics, and update NP information regarding protection threats, vulnerabilities, and capacities of the local community.

With the outbreak of South Sudan’s civil war at the end of 2013, Malakal and the surrounding areas of Upper Nile State witnessed massive fighting, displacing tens of thousands of civilians across the Nile River to villages along the west bank. Wau Shilluk, previously a small Shilluk community of some 4,000 residents approximately 12 kilometers north of Malakal, became the main Shilluk internally displaced persons (IDP) settlement. As of May 2015, the community had reached an estimated population of 40,000 individuals.

Read more: Exploration to Open a New Site in South Sudan

During its May monthly meeting with Nonviolent Peaceforce, the Women’s Peacekeeping Team in the Bor Protection of Civilians area decided to focus on tackling the high levels of alcohol consumption as a means to mitigate conflict in the area. With so many residents suffering from depression and trauma, alcohol consumption has become a cheap and accessible, albeit negative, coping mechanism.

In response, the Women’s Peacekeeping Team resolved to provide direct support, mentorship, and informal case management to those abusing alcohol. In its most recent monthly meeting with Nonviolent Peaceforce, the Women’s Peacekeeping Team began sharing stories of its successes and challenges.

One woman recounted how she is supporting an alcoholic young man recently diagnosed with tuberculosis. She ensured that the young man was admitted to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) clinic for proper treatment and that he abstains from alcohol during that time. Since the young man has no relatives in the Protection of Civilians area, she is also volunteering to bring him food while he is recovering.

Read more: Women's Peacekeeping Team in Bor, South Sudan Tackles Alcohol Abuse

Food Distribution in South SudanSince the outbreak of the civil war in 2013, South Sudan has been afflicted by violence, instability, and starvation. The intense conflict has created 1.6 million internally displaced people, rendering large populations to be in need of basic services. Many civilians do not have access to food, water, and shelter due to the violence and massacres conducted by rival militias. As the conflict conflicts, (despite the most recent peace agreement) there is a vital need for humanitarian aid to provide protection and basic resources to affected populations.

 

NP has been operating in South Sudan since 2010, and was one of the few humanitarian organizations to stay on the ground in the face of conflict. NP organized field teams at four of the biggest displacement sites, and grew to to be the largest protection agency within South Sudan. Much of the success can be attributed to the ability of the field teams to strategically adapt to emergency situations on the ground. Since the beginning of the conflict, NP has been at the frontlines of the crisis and largely contributed to the current humanitarian response. NP employs a complex strategy, which consists of emergency response work, prevention interventions, and food distributions.

 

The distribution of food and non-food items (NFIs) during South Sudan’s crisis is a vital lifeline towards survival and well-being of the nation. The General Food Distribution (GFD) takes place all over the country to aid a traumatized population, who are likely to have limited or no access to food or resources. General Food Distributions are a complex operation and require careful planning to ensure efficient assistance to vulnerable populations, while providing safety and protection for all involved.

Read more: Protecting Vulnerable People During Food Distributions in South Sudan

"We were hopeless but you found our father

In September, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) team in Bor (South Sudan) successfully reunified 14 children with their parents in Akobo. The children were living in the Bor, Protection of Civilians site, after being separated from their parents during the conflict in 2013. They have spent the last 18 months living with relatives or in foster care within the Bor, Protection of Civilians site. In September, their long-awaited dreams of being reunited with their parents came true.

To indentify the children and reunify them with their parents in Akobo, the NP's South Sudan team in Bor used a system called Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR). This system acts as a tool for humanitarian aid workers to assess the situation of separated children, register and upload photos of the children, search for family members, and share vital information with other trusted organizations. The system is used to locate thousands of children and caregivers separated as a result of the conflict. Using data from NP, the Save the Children team in Akobo identified and matched the children with their parents. All of them were very eager to be reunited.

Read more: Reuniting Families in South Sudan

Over the past few months, the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) Bor team in South Sudan has been working with a group of adolescent girls in Bor Town. The NP Bor team efforts focus on supporting them in addressing protection challenges they face in their community.

A couple of protection issues the girls face relate to gathering water from the borehole in the community. At times, the girls need to gather water from the borehole at night and they are at risk of being abused by men drinking in the area. Secondly, a very large community is sharing just one borehole, giving rise to conflicts. For instance, one girl was slapped when she politely told another woman not to jump the queue. The girls recently requested an opportunity to present their protection concerns in the bi-monthly chiefs meeting. The bi-monthly chiefs' meeting is an NP-sponsored forum that hosts many of the leaders in Bor Town. For the past year, the NP team has been convening local government officials, humanitarian partners, and the block leaders/chiefs of Bor Town for bi-monthly meetings to create a regular forum for dialogue.

Read more: Engaging Female Youth in Monthly Chief Meetings in Bor, South Sudan

“If you want to educate a nation, educate a woman.” -African Proverb.

Ulang1Cultural norms and social expectations can lead young people, particularly young men in South Sudan to participate in violence. Nonviolent Peaceforce’s training of women illustrates how violence can be prevented as cultural expectations and gender roles are challenged.

According to Nuer culture in South Sudan, an adult is any person who has been initiated i.e. facially marked. Therefore, any male with facial marking is considered a man ̶ ̶ even if he is less than 17 years old. An important aspect of being a man is to protect the community from perceived threats. This results in many boys being recruited and enticed in going to war. Although there might not always be direct mobilization of young boys, socially they are expected to participate in conflict.

Read more: Ulang Women's Peacekeeping Team Stops Child Recruitment

Location: Juba, South Sudan

By Nonviolent Peaceforce Office in South Sudan

Background/Context

SS Security 2The establishment of Community Protection Teams (CPTs) in a Juba's Protection of Civilians sites stems from a "community engagement strategy." Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) began implementing this strategy last year in the Juba Protection of Civilians site. Our contacts with both women and youth leadership were established through different activities, following the framework of the community engagement strategy. This included activities such as recreational and sports activities, workshops, focus group discussions and so forth.

We acknowledged that both youth, including children, and women were among the groups most affected by violence and insecurity (either as victims/survivors or perpetrators). We were also aware that these specific community members perceived that they were poorly represented in the community-led management of the camp affairs. Additionally, they felt they had minimal participation in the local structures of power and decision-making processes.

Read more: Engaging a Community in Security Issues at Protection of Civilians Sites