The world’s newest nation remains its most fragile state.
With the help of World Vision, more than 250 South Sudanese children will have the chance to return to school, reunite with their families, and receive counseling after years of being forced to serve as soldiers and domestic workers during their country’s civil war.
The New York Times reported this week that 87 girls and 224 boys were freed in the second-largest release by armed groups since the conflict began, and several hundred more are expected to transition in the coming weeks.
World Vision, which has worked in South Sudan since 1989 and currently reaches 1 million people displaced by the conflict, received the children on Wednesday and will oversee their recovery and reunification.
“We are particularly concerned about a number of the girls being released who have experienced sexual or gender-based violence,” said Mesfin Loha, interim national director at World Vision South Sudan. “We will get them the support so they have a sense of hope again.”
With high levels of poverty, widespread displacement, and lack of education (70 percent of South Sudanese children are not in school—the highest proportion in the world), youth in what World Vision ranks as the world’s most fragile state are particularly vulnerable targets for the armed groups.
The United Nations has coordinated the release of almost 2,000 of 19,000 children recruited and kidnapped since the civil war began in 2013.
World Vision’s reintegration program gets support from the UN Children’s Fund, or UNICEF. Moving forward, World Vision case workers in the city of Yambio will work with children in recovery, offer school and vocational training, and provide interim care for those unable to locate their families.