World Refugee Day: Girls on the run in South Sudan

Everyone has the right to security. But what if your home is no longer safe and you have to flee because of war or violence? Millions of people in South Sudan have experienced it, including many children. Anna Belt, emergency aid expert at Plan International, explains why it is important to support these refugees, especially girls.

“South Sudan is the youngest country in the world. The country first gained independence in 2011, following a 22-year war for independence with Sudan. While independence was meant to create peace and stability, nothing could be further from the truth. Residents are threatened daily by violence from armed groups, such as shootings, kidnappings and forced recruitment of children. “

Famine

“The violence has now led to more than four million people fleeing to refugee camps in neighboring countries, as well as to camps in safer places in South Sudan itself. Life in the refugee camps is hard. People live close together and have to share sanitary facilities such as showers and toilets with different households. Due to the worldwide famine, there is almost no food available and food prices are rising rapidly. In the camps, there is no possibility to grow food yourself. ”

Plan International distributes basic necessities to refugees in refugee camps in South Sudan

Sexual violence

“During crises, girls are most vulnerable. Due to food shortages, many girls are married off at a young age, so their parents have less mouth to feed. In addition, there is little protection in the camps, which means girls have to deal with sexual violence. “Sometimes they are kidnapped and raped, after which they are often forced to marry the perpetrator to save the family’s honor. For that reason, parents do not dare send their daughters to school, because sexual violence can also happen on the way to school.”

There is little protection in the camps, which means that girls are more likely to experience sexual violence

Does not go to school

“In the camp, girls are mainly busy with household chores on a daily basis. Due to lack of basic needs in the refugee camp, they often have to go far outside the camp to get water and firewood. They also help with cooking, take care of the younger brothers and sisters or need to clean. These tasks take a lot of time, which gives some time to go to school. ”


Also read: Refugee from South Sudan: life in a refugee camp in Ethiopia

No sanitary napkins

“Girls also miss school for other reasons. For example, they do not go to school when they are menstruating because bandages are difficult to obtain. This is worrying, because school is often one of the few places in the refugee camps where the girls are safe. To prevent girls from missing school due to their period, Plan International provides training for girls to learn how to make reusable sanitary napkins themselves. “

Two girls from South Sudan wave in front of a blackboard with red bowls
Girls are most vulnerable in refugee camps

Childcare

“Partly due to sexual violence and child marriages, there are many teenage mothers in the camps. They want to finish school but cannot do so because they do not have childcare facilities for their children. Last year, Plan International was able to ensure that there was childcare in the schools, so that the mothers could follow the lessons. ”

Stress and distraction

“Unfortunately, there is less money this year, and we had to stop childcare again. Now the mothers are in class with their babies, or the children are hanging out in the schoolyard. This creates additional stress and distraction. The situation in the refugee camps is therefore still difficult, especially for girls. “


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That’s what Plan International is doing

With the help of ECHO (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid), Plan International is working in several refugee camps in South Sudan:

  • We take care of child-friendly placeswhere children learn what their rights are and where they can turn for support;
  • We offer girls who have been victims of sexual violence psychosocial support
  • We take care of schools is built, that teachers are trained and paid, and that school materials are available;
  • We mourn there latrines and water places installed in schools so that there is clean water and girls do not have to go that far;
  • Of information campaigns we educate parents, community leaders and teachers about the dangers of child marriage and how to better protect their children from sexual violence;
  • We share care packages out with basic necessities like soap and sanitary napkins.

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