Humanitarian agencies: Children’s voices need to be at the heart of efforts to end violence

BY Paul Night

Some of unaccompanied minor or Children separated from their parents have been recorded in the settlement.PHOTO BY PAUL NIGHT
Some of unaccompanied minor or Children separated from their parents have been recorded in the settlement.PHOTO BY PAUL NIGHT

WESTNILE REGION-As the South Sudanese civil war conflict is ongoing between forces of the government of South Sudan President Silva Kiir and Opposition forces loyal to Dr Riek Machar the Humanitarian aid workers in West Nile Region are calling the parties and negotiators to put the Children Voice at the heart of efforts to end violence.

Mr Patricio Cuevas-Parra, World Vision’s Child Participation and Rights Senior Adviser at Palorinya and Bidi bidi Refugee Settlements said Children are always the worst affected by conflict no matter how they are involved and struggle to regain their childhood afterwards. “We can see this happening in refugee camps in South Sudan. We can see this happening in the Kasai region of the DRC at the moment and other parts of the World.

Mr Cuevas-Parra says it’s the role of children that is given the least consideration in funding, programming, legal decisions made by power holders yet their involvement has the most potential for real, sustainable change. “But children know better than anyone what they need. They need to be involved, and their needs must be at the Centre of all of our efforts”, he said.

He noted that on the one hand there has been some progress registered in the decline of recruitment of child soldiers. “Children are no longer being recruited by the national army. However, they are still active in other armed groups, and we are hearing horrific stories from former child soldiers who now face an uncertain future in South Sudan. A lack of funding and a lack of attention all threaten their volatile, precious future”, Mr Cuevas Parra said.

Mr Ismail Jamal, a Volunteer with Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) at Bidi bidi Refugee Settlement in Yumbe district said Victims of emotional and psychosocial violence choose to isolate themselves from their families and friends. “I want to call for everyone to stand the Humanitarian agencies and focus your interventions very deliberately to ensure the protection and well-being of all children.”

He added that “It takes children being listened to. It takes children being valued. It takes a world recognizing the potential and gifts that children bring. It takes a world to listen, and act. “They have solutions, they have answers, as the victims and survivors of violence, which affects 1.7 billion of them, they know better than anyone the change that needs to happen.” says Jamal

Ms Kelvin Namboozi, the Social Welfare officer with Lutheran World Federation (LWF) said Children have been forced to fight, they have been chased from their homes in the war toned Africa’s youngest nation (South Sudan) and they have seen family members beheaded or shot. “Children who weren’t active in any armed groups have still been treated as combatants and killed by opposing groups. Some children have shut down to the point where they no longer speak or communicate after witnessing the violence happening around them.” She said

Ms Namboozi said many of these children their goals and hopes right now are of resuming their education and being reunited with their families. “They still have hope for the future, hope that another reality is possible. Action to safeguard this hope and help build a brighter future is needed at every level, starting with their families.”


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