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Update on SOS Child Soldier Programme, Malakal, the Sudan


A former child soldier displays his drawings

Located in the south eastern corner of Africa’s largest country, Malakal is a Sudanese town with a population of two million. Twenty years ago it was a beautiful and lively place but it has been haunted by war. The fighting, which officially ended in 2005, has left Malakal scarred and tired. Many people in the town are subsistence farmers but today they cannot grow enough to feed their own families. Children’s health, education and psychological statuses have suffered.

Young children were snatched from their families at the height of the civil war and used as soldiers. Today, many have been dismissed from duty, and even though the killing is over the impact of war remains fresh in their minds. They are lost, scared and cannot find their parents. SOS Children set up an emergency relief programme to support these child soldiers, many of whom are now young adults, and give them back their lives and their families.

Tensions in Malakal have increased over the past few months and as such information on the programme is not getting through quickly. Therefore information in this update may be slightly out-of-date.

Rehabilitation of Child Soldiers and reunification with families

Two former soldiers at the end of the school day

Our rehabilitation and reunification programme for each child soldier lasts around ten months. To begin with, the children are reintroduced to everyday life. We give them shelter, food, clean Helping to build the camp clothes and an education. Many children have never been to school and without an education will never break out of poverty. We help them overcome the trauma of war through drawing, drama classes and counseling. They find that being able to express their feelings eases their pain. To help them develop teamwork skills and make friends, they have helped build the houses they live in while on the programme.

With support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), we have been able to reunite families. In 2004, for example, 303 former child soldiers were on the programme, and 290, or 96 per cent, were reunited with their immediate or extended families. Two of these children were girls. This is a high percentage, for two reasons in particular. The first is that many people were killed in the war and some of these children may not have any family left. The second reason is that some families will not accept child soldiers, their sons or brothers, back. These children have killed and are not welcome at home. SOS will support the children who cannot return home until they are fully independent.

In 2005, 200 child soldiers were on the emergency programme.


child soldiers

We supported another 200 child soldiers in 2006 and hope to help the same number in 2007. One of the child soldiers on our programme has just entered university and has a bright future ahead of him. We are proud of our achievements and are pleased that we have been able to give so many children their lives back.

Relevant Countries: Sudan.

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