Sudan

UNICEF Operations in South Sudan Monthly Report Apr 2001

87 Deng Nhial Boys Return Home
Eighty-seven former child soldiers from the Deng Nhial School for demobilized child soldiers went home this month. UNICEF staff supervised excited groups of boys as they climbed onto the backs of lorries and sang and waved goodbye to friends and residents of Rumbek town. The trucks also held bags of sorghum so that the children would not return to their families empty-handed. Home communities had been told to expect the arrivals and there were touching scenes as parents embraced their children.

The students at the SPLM's Deng Nhial School represent an older group of former child soldiers that UNICEF has been supporting since June last year. Many are from areas within Rumbek County. One father waiting near the village of Akot had not been with his son in over five years. He told UNICEF staff, "I sent him to get an education and I then heard he had joined the army. I am very happy that you have brought him back".

Despite the happiness of many of the reunions, the boys are returning to communities that are struggling with few resources and the children will continue to face an uncertain future. A Paramount Chief warmly welcomed a party of 21 boys but asked UNICEF representatives for help. "The school has no roof and no books", he said.

UNICEF and OLS NGOs continue to seek solutions to the problem of providing schools and training teachers in Rumbek County, as in other counties around southern Sudan.

REHABILITATION OF CHILD SOLDIERS

Unlike the recently reunified children from the Deng Nhial School the 3,500 children airlifted from Bahr el Ghazal in February are still some weeks from their reunions. The imminent return has been discussed with them, but much is yet to be done before they and their home communities are ready for the transition. UNICEF's proposal for the reunification process includes funding requests to renovate schools, train teachers and establish vocational training so that the return of the children acts as a catalyst for general improvement in their home communities. Following a survey of the boys, UNICEF has a clear idea of where the children come from, and cross referencing with information already available in the education and water sectors has assisted planning.

Work in the eight transit facilities continues, with notable successes reported by UNICEF staff. However, conditions at the Akot transit facility gave rise to considerable concern during the month. The camp initially received 1,600 children in February, as it was the only one with permanent structures. However it soon became obvious that the Sudanese NGO involved in running the facility was not performing well. UNICEF has made representations to the Child Soldiers Task Force (including UNICEF, SPLM, SRRA and NGOs) asking for radical changes, and in the meantime has taken large numbers of children from the facility. By the end of April the numbers in the camp had dropped to 900. Further reductions will be made to decrease the total number to 400. During the last two weeks of April considerable efforts were made to improve conditions and dramatic changes were reported. At the beginning of May the decision was taken to base two UNICEF staff permanently at the facility and take over many administrative functions.

Despite the problems in Akot, education activities and water facilities have been operating smoothly in all the facilities. Following decisions to get alternative supplies of food from Uganda as well as from local markets, the threat of shortages has receded. Sports and recreational activities have been taking place at all facilities except Karic and Maleng Agok although there is room for even more improvement. Five of the centres (Aber, Abin Ajok, Pan Awac, Wullu and Akot) have gardens that are near to producing vegetables for local markets and the children themselves. Psychosocial work with the children, which is to be conducted by Radda Barnen (SCF Sweden), had not begun by the end of April.

Lack of construction materials, particularly grass, has become a major obstacle to construction of more buildings. UNICEF has ordered plastic sheeting which should arrive by mid-May.

Management of the project has been considerably enhanced with the arrival of four secondees from the Norwegian Refugee Council. The four, who are on UNICEF contracts, make regular visits to all facilities and bring with them considerable expertise.

PROMOTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

The UNICEF Human Rights Promotion and Peace Building (HRPB) section conducted an HIV/AIDS training of trainers workshop for folklore groups, health workers, teachers and selected child soldiers from the transit facilities. A total of 26 folklore group members from four groups, including a women's dance group, were trained for three days, while 12 health workers and teachers from the transit camps and 11 demobilized child soldiers were trained for two days. Community Aid International (CAI) conducted the training on behalf of UNICEF.

Initially, the workshop was planned for the folklore groups with the object of having them trained to present their messages in an engaging way to the demobilized child soldiers. However, at a visit to the Abina Jok transit facility, prior to the workshop the camp manager requested that a few demobilized child soldiers be included in the training workshop as peer educators. This was particularly important, as significant misconceptions regarding AIDS were discovered amongst the boys.

Most participants were excited about relaying the information throughout their communities. The key slogan for awareness was "the ABC of HIV/AIDS."

A - Abstinence

This was not a new thing to Sudanese culture as they practice it traditionally for youth before marriage. It was recommended to young people, although the older generation recognized a breakdown in this cultural practice.

B- Be faithful

The participants emphasized faithfulness to one's partner(s), particularly after they watched the videos on HIV/AIDS.

C- Condoms

This was not the most favored prevention measure, amongst the folklore groups, but they recommended it for high-risk groups, specifically citing the traders. Health workers recommended a greater supply of condoms, testing kits, and were keen to know how to clinically diagnose HIV/AIDS.

The Video shows viewed at the training were very popular. The participants repeatedly recommended these as the most effective way of relaying information. Requests were also made for posters, books and teaching charts on HIV/AIDS for disseminating the information.

Principal outcomes of the Workshop

1. Each of the folklore groups composed a variety of songs at the end of the workshop using the newly acquired information. The translations of the songs into English showed a strong understanding of the HIV/AIDS messages.

2. There was a heightened urgency among the participants to bring HIV/AIDS information to their communities.

3. There was a general sense of relief that HIV/AIDS was not communicable by merely living with a person who was HIV positive. As a result, the participants offered suggestions on how to protect the dignity of people living with HIV/AIDS.

4. Both the folklore groups and the trainees from the transit facilities drew up action plans on activities they would carry out within their communities.

EDUCATION

Distance Teacher Education

The distance education team - comprised of eight Sudanese writers, two managers and two expatriate advisers - traveled from Nairobi to Yambio on 16 April to establish the Distance Teacher Education Unit (DTEU) under the Institute of Development, Environment and Agricultural Studies (IDEAS) and to continue writing materials for Distance Education programmes.

While in Nairobi they developed a ten-year Strategic Plan for DTEU (2001-2010). According to the Strategic Plan, for example, materials for the whole teacher education programme - leading to a recognized diploma in education - will be completed by 2003 and the new DTEU annexes will be opened in Nimule, Upper Nile, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. Following the long-term plan, the team also developed an operational plan for the period of April 2001-March 2002. The enrolment of teachers in the distance education programme will start in October this year, both in Yambio and Rumbek. Two workshops facilitated by the Bachelor College from Australia are planned for this year as well and will begin in July.

Life Skills Programme

A team of 13 Sudanese writers and illustrators have completed drafts of the first three Life Skills modules. The themes of the modules are:

  • Human and child rights and responsibilities - target group of 10-12 years
  • Children need good food, health and safe environment in order to develop - target group 8-10 years
  • Health education for the adolescents, including HIV/AIDS - target group 12-14 years

Modules are ready for editing and piloting in the demobilized child soldiers camps and schools in Yambio before their finalization.

As a part of the Life Skills Programme, a young member of the team conducted one week of research among the demobilized child soldiers in Rumbek to provide additional information for the development of the programme. The research was based on three themes: childhood, children needs/rights and sexual maturation (puberty). Out of the 200 children interviewed, only 25% have heard of HIV/AIDS. For the majority of child soldiers, HIV/AIDS was the most fascinating and interesting subject. For a few that knew about it, AIDS was "the disease for ladies, foreigners and neighboring countries like Kenya and Uganda". The following conclusions were drawn from the research:

  • There is alarming ignorance about HIV/AIDS but at the same time a great desire to learn about it
  • Demobilized child soldiers are still apprehensive about recruitment back into the army
  • They appreciate care, protection and activities in the transit camps
  • They are ready to talk to appropriately selected people
  • They are eager to learn to become independent.

Water and Environmental Sanitation

Operation and Maintenance

SRRA WES repaired 22 hand pumps with support from UNICEF in Pacong, Pakam Wulu, Kuei Payams and Rumbek town.

Two hand pump platforms repairs were done by UNICEF in Karic and Aber transit facilities.

Four major handpump breakdowns were reported in Bangasu and Yambio towns in Yambio county and were repaired by the counterpart WES team.

12 Borehole platforms were rehabilitated in Yambio (one in Bangasu, six in Yambio, three in Li Rangu and two in Nzara).

One hand dug well was rehabilitated in Bar Aliap, The hand dug well was capped and an IMK2 hand pump installed. The water point is within Bar Aliap community center.

Hygiene and Sanitation

18 hygiene education sessions were conducted by counterpart hygiene educators in the above Payams and Rumbek town. Women, men and children attended the sessions.

43 pit latrine stances were constructed by UNICEF: one Pit with four stances in CCM's Rumbek hospital, one Pit with three stances at the Rumbek Airport and 12 in Karic. UNICEF also completed the construction of five pit latrines with a total of 20 stances in the Akot transit facility.

20 PVC pit latrine slabs were delivered to Karic and Malengagok transit facilities for construction.

UNICEF conducted a three day hygiene and sanitation training workshop in four transit facilities - Aber, Abinajok, Wulu, and Akot - for demobilized child soldiers

Construction of the Sakure community resource pit latrines are completed. Digging is completed in Gangura and Bangasu.

Five hygiene education sessions were held in Nzara, Yambio Town, Nabiapai and Lirangu. A total 656 people (men, women and children attended).

Two awareness and mobilization sessions were held by the newly established WES drama team in Saura and Nayure villages. A total of 375 persons attended.

Training

Three Village Level Care Takers (VLCTs) were trained in Rumbek Town by SRRA WES team through UNICEF support.

16 VLCTs trained for eight boreholes in Yambio County.

New Water Points

8 Successful bore holes were drilled by UNICEF/OLS contractors. PAT AFRICA drilled 5, DEMO TECH drilled 3, The site locations are: Luacjang Payam for IDPs from Benteu, CCM Rumbek hospital, Thonic (Biling) Transit facility a second bore hole and at Abinajok Transit facility a second bore hole.

One borehole was drilled in Ayen Goi, Tuic County by SUPRAID under capacity building support offered by UNICEF and DEMO TECH staff.

Other

A geophysical and hydrogeological site investigation was competed in the school, institute and two community centres Li rangu and Nadiangere. More data is still to be collected in Bangasu Community Resource Centre to guarantee a better chance for successful drilling.

OLS CONSORTIUM

Humanitarian Coordination and Services Unit (HCSU) activities remained seriously constrained from lack of funding during April. The unit has sufficient funds to pay for salaries and basic coordination meetings only. All other activities, such as the Cultural Orientation Workshop, the SINGO capacity building, and training in conflict transformation skills have been postponed. The institutional support to counterparts for the second quarter of the year was due in the beginning of the month, but payments have not been made due to lack of funds.

OLS Health

The newly arrived EPI Coordinator for southern Sudan, Mr Nasim Ahmed, organized a one-day session in Lokichokio with the Health agencies working in southern Sudan on 27 April, 2001.

The objective of the meeting was to:

  • Solicit inputs from organizations on the implementation of the project.
  • Brief organizations on the status of resource mobilization.
  • Clarify roles of various organizations and obtain firm commitment of various parties.

The following action points regarding the strategy document were agreed upon:

  • That the implementation strategy may have to be phased and staggered given the logistical realities of southern Sudan. The polio program NIDs has adopted this strategy.

  • The document has to be revised in line with current global policy guidelines. Strengthening of routine EPI has to be seen as an objective of the program.

  • A two-phase strategy - control/acceleration and elimination phase will be adopted. The outbreak phase is part of control.

  • Specific epidemiological decisions such as the age group of the target group and practical and workable solutions to safe disposal of syringes remain unresolved issues that must be resolved and communicated to all partners in the next two weeks

Micro planning for the campaign at the county level in the accessible areas will commence in May. It was agreed that this was a very important aspect of implementation. The planning must involve the emerging County Health Departments and use this as an opportunity to strengthen the fragile health system in southern Sudan. Various organizations were asked to facilitate and play lead roles in developing micro plans in their respective geographical areas. (A full report is to be issued separately).

Emergency Preparedness and Response (EP&R)

Western Upper Nile: A Leech State meeting was held on 5 April in Lokichokio. A report of the meeting was circulated to all agencies operating in the location.

Upper Nile: An Upper Nile meeting was held on 27 April in Nairobi. The major outcome of the meeting was an agreement on a weekly operations update in Lokichokio that will be circulated to all agencies working in the area.

Bahr el Ghazal: A meeting has been scheduled for 9 May after the OLS internal meeting to update the contingency planning for Bahr el Ghazal and address the issue of field level coordination.

Coordination Issues: The EP&R unit continued work with the nutrition group on data /information flows and ability to utilize technical staff across areas of operations. It is also working with the food security group regarding long term food security by ensuring best use of resources particularly seeds and tools.

OLS Education

The Education Coordination Committee Meeting was held on 25 & 26 April. The meeting discussed, among other issues, the education aspect for the recently demobilized child soldiers in the transit facilities in Rumbek County; Education outcomes in southern Sudan and ways to improve education systems; success stories on alternatives to formal education as per a recent educational tour to Bangladesh, Nepal and India that was undertaken by counterparts; some members of the Education Coordination Committee and UNICEF/OLS officials; and the teaching/learning of mother tongue and its importance in southern Sudan. It was agreed that the Curriculum Steering Committee and the SPLM Commission for Education (respectively) were responsible for the development and implementation of mother tongue teaching in southern Sudan. The need to unify the curriculum in southern Sudan was also re-emphasized.

OLS Household Food Security (HHFS)

A food security coordination workshop was held at the Nairobi Safari Club on 19 April. During the meeting agriculture and fisheries input distribution plans were reviewed. FAO reported that they had received sufficient funding for the exercise but stressed that most of the seeds would be locally procured. There was a general feeling that seed importation should be greatly minimized.

The meeting also recommended that a unified approach be taken in crop assessments. FAO was charged with the responsibility of drafting the guidelines. The assessment will be done before and after crop harvests.

HEALTH / PLANNING & M&E / PROTECTION

HEALTH

The Survival and Growth Assistant Programme Officer, visited all the Demobilized Child Soldier Transit Centres during the week. More cases of bilharziasis were treated at the centers. More will be treated this week in Akot, Atiyaba and Tonic.

Drug kits were also delivered to the transit facilities. The centers are mainly reporting cases of wounds that need dressings at least twice in a day. No reported cases of disease outbreaks in the facilities were reported.

PLANNING / M&E

Say Yes Vote

A consultant was hired to run the Say Yes campaign in Bahr el Ghazal. He gave presentations on the Say Yes vote at teacher training courses in Akon and is now stationed in Rumbek. He is sending weekly updates on the progress of the campaign. By end April, the Rights Awareness Team members had collected 5,000 votes.

Consolidation of Database Systems

A contract was given to UNDP Somalia to merge UNICEF's three databases (health, water, and education) to ensure that they are compatible and to create a master list of locations in southern Sudan. UNDP is creating an atlas of around 35 maps on which field staff can plot the locations of services (health units, schools, and water points) so that the services that do not correspond to GPS coordinates can still be plotted on the maps.

The information from the three databases was used to gain a preliminary understanding of the existing services in the locations to which the recently demobilized child soldiers will be returning.

PROTECTION

A two-day workshop was held from 3-4 April at the Silver Springs Hotel in Nairobi.

The major objective of the workshop was to review and discuss the present situation of Vocational Training in southern Sudan, with a view to developing an appropriate curriculum for Vocational Training and Non-Formal Education inside southern Sudan. Also discussed was the issue of skill training with a special emphasis on demobilized child soldiers.

The Kenyan and Somalia experiences were shared by those currently involved in these programmes. Practical considerations, as well as assessments and certification in vocational training and linking vocational skills training and entrepreneurship were discussed in great detail.

A policy guideline is in the process of being developed to guide and speed up implementation arrangements.