Juba, South Sudan, 15 May 2014 – Without the luxury of coffee to start the first day of our mission in Mingkaman we joined the early morning community leaders meeting which provided a perfectly timed general briefing of the context of the camp. We were accompanied by one of the 11 local C4D staff, Aping Kuluel, who has been working alongside Education, Protection and other programme colleagues in Mingkaman to support behaviour change and peacebuilding efforts.
Voices of the displaced
I listened with keen interest to the concerns being voiced by residents and was particularly disturbed by the knotted issues of gender and conflict: women having to pay in-kind favours to transport food rations from the air drop to their homes because of absent husbands with multiple wives; a ratio of 4 female teachers out of 90 because of low literacy levels amongst females; high incidence of corporal punishment meted out by the male teachers on already traumatized children; girls not attending school because of menstruation and lack of water; child soldiers and gender-based violence.
While feeling parched from the stories shared at the weekly IDP camp coordination meeting, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat encouraged to hear of the valiant and well-coordinated efforts of the multi-partner Education Cluster, supported from the UNICEF side by Education Specialist Chikondi Mpokosa. UNICEF, in close collaboration with the Norwegian Refugee Council, Save the Children, Plan International, Danish Church Aid and Intersors, has helped establish over 50 temporary learning spaces for displaced children, particularly from the Dinka population. UNICEF has also supported training of government and voluntary teachers and parent teacher association members on psychosocial support skills. Now with the extra push of the Schools as Zones of Peace initiative, UNICEF will be adapting the child friendly schools framework to sharpen the peacebuilding lens and will be training partners and teachers in conflict sensitive education approaches.
Collaboration and coordination
While this was an exciting development, the establishment of a collaborative agreement between UNICEF and InterNews, which runs a small community radio in the centre of the Mingkaman camp, was the mission highlight. Struggling to have a clean recording over the sound of the throttling generator outside the tent, Chris Maker, locally hired InterNews radio producer and station coordinator, proudly reported that the station will soon be installing solar panels which will support 24-7 broadcasting and Wi-Fi capability. Every Thursday after sundown, Chris hosts a Dinka informational program called “Good Evening Mingkaman” where he interviews aid workers, government officials and native Dinka speakers to provide the community with information about services provided and other humanitarian information.
UNICEF is deploying rotating C4D officers on site to provide technical support for a new child-focused weekly magazine programme on the InterNews Mingkaman radio platform. The proposed programme will include Vox Pops, drama, music and community discussions about triggers of conflict and ways of resolving them. To make this work, C4D staff deployed in Mingkaman will coordinate a children and youth group from one of the UNICEF child-friendly spaces to generate the music and drama content. This will build on the planned community-faith based leaders group and an existing women’s group coordinated by International Rescue Committee to generate the community views to be aired on the programme.
On leaving the camp it struck me that only aid workers in Mingkaman will have the privilege of “Rest and Recuperation” at the end of a well-deserved, challenging two week period where the working day melts into the working night, seven days a week. Mingkaman residents, on the other hand, will have to stick it out and endure for the long haul in their forced new makeshift homes, exposed to the elements. I was glad to witness a cushion of strong and well-coordinated humanitarian aid surrounding them…and UNICEF with its peacebuilding initiative is no small part.
By Kerida McDonald, UNICEF Senior Advisor, C4D NYHQ