She’s Happily Reunited but Still Needs Help

Wednesday 13 June 2018

12 year old Joy* was successfully reunited with her family. She still faces huge challenges to completing her education and maintaining her health.

Joy* plays with her younger sister Sarah* at home in Mayom two days after reunification. Photo; Tito Justin/Save the Children

The ongoing and violent civil war South Sudan has displaced thousands. This has created a human rights and protection crisis, in which children are suffering the most. Many children have witnessed acts of violence committed against their loved ones that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Thousands have been separated from their families and are now extremely vulnerable for all kind of violence, exploitation and abuse. Girls, in particular are at risk of sexual violence, child marriage and early pregnancy.

Save the Children in South Sudan is working with partners to reunite children who were separated by the conflict with their families. But after the happiness of reunification, the futures of these children remain uncertain. In 2014 Joy,* aged 12 years, was separated from her parents during the crisis. Initially she was able to stay with her aunt in Juba. But later, her aunt abandoned Joy* on the streets of Juba to fend for herself.

“My aunt could not cater for me; she abuses me, beats me and refuses to support me at home,” said Joy*. “I would love to be with my parents, but I do not know where they are.” Joy* was identified by Mobile Theatre Team (MTT) as unaccompanied child - Family Tracing and Reunification partner supported by Save the Children.

It was tears of happiness the day Joy* was reunited with her family members after 4 years of separation. She now stays with her family, 12 kilometres South of Mayom County in the former Upper Nile state. After reunification at home in her village, Joy* loves to play with her friends and likes to look after her parent’s domestic animals especially goats and sheep. “I missed my sisters and brothers and I love playing with them”, she said, while posing for a picture with goat kids.

 Tito Justin/Save the Children

Life in the Village after reunification.

Much as humanitarians are looking for a bright future for children in the conflict affected areas, the fighting remains a key obstacle to restoring hope for the once lost future of children in South Sudan. Joy’s* dream was to become a doctor so that she could treat the people in a community. The nearest health centre in Joy’s* village is 22 kilometres and her parents have to travel about 2 days to a hospital in Wau.

At the time Joy* was reunified with her family, she was in primary five. She said she wanted to continue with her education. But was easy when she’s in Juba when  she has to walk less a kilometre to school and to a health centre. Now in her village, she has to walk five kilometres in search of education and about 22 kilometers in search of health facility.

 The situation in Joy’s* village Mayom

Mayom County, where Joy* lives was a ghost town in 2014 where houses where burnt when fighting broke out between warring parties in the area. As people start to resettle from 2016, [1]in April, renewed fighting in Mayom, Rubkona, Guit, Koch, Leer and Mayendit counties in Unity led to displacement of thousands of civilians. Three villages were destroyed following clashes in and around Koch town near Mayom displacing over 7,000 people, while nearly 600 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) arrived in Nyal, Panyijiar County.  

Save the Children is the lead agency for Family Tracing and Reunification, and have recently helped in tracing and reunification of over 5,400 children with their families who have been separated from their parents or guardians in the violence. Reunifications involve coordination among different partners and it is a joint effort.

It is evident that if a political solution is not urgently found to stop the violence, the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan will continue to grow and a whole generation of children will be at risk of losing out on a future.


Story written by Tito Justin