World Refugee Day: Girls on the run in South Sudan

Everyone has the right to a safe shelter. But what if your home is no longer safe and you have to flee due to war or violence? Millions of people in South Sudan have gone through it, including many children. Anna Bildt, emergency aid expert at Plan International, explains why it is so important to support these refugees, especially girls.

South Sudan is the newest country in the world. The country only gained its independence in 2011, after a 22-year war for independence with Sudan. While independence was intended to bring peace and stability, nothing could be further from the truth. The population is daily threatened by violence from armed groups, such as shootings, kidnappings and forced recruitment of children.”


“The violence has now led to more than four million people fleeing to refugee camps in neighboring countries, as well as to camps in safer locations in South Sudan itself. Life in refugee camps is tough. People live close to each other and have to share sanitation facilities such as showers and latrines. With different families. Because of the famine all over the world, there is hardly any food available and food prices are increasing rapidly. In the camps there is no possibility to grow food on your own.”

Plan International distributes basic necessities to refugees in refugee camps in South Sudan

sexual violence

“During crises, girls are more vulnerable. Because of the lack of food, many girls are married off at such a young age that their parents only have one mouth to feed. In addition, there is little protection in the camps, which means that girls have to deal with Sexual violence. Sometimes they are kidnapped and raped, after which they are often forced to marry the offender in order to preserve the family’s honour. For this reason, parents do not dare to send their daughters to school, because sexual violence can also happen on the way to school.”

There is little protection in the camps, which means girls are more vulnerable to sexual violence

I will not go to school

“In the camp, girls are mainly occupied with daily household chores. Due to the lack of basic needs in the refugee camp, they often have to walk far outside the camp to get water and firewood. They also help with cooking, take care of younger brothers and sisters or have to clean. These take Tasks take a lot of time, and they leave little time to go to school.”

Read also: A South Sudanese refugee: Life in a refugee camp in Ethiopia

No sanitary pads

“Girls also miss school for other reasons. For example, they don’t go to school during their menstruation, because sanitary pads are hard to come by. This is worrying, because school is often one of the few places in refugee camps where girls are safe. To prevent girls From missing school due to menstruation, Plan International provides training for girls so they can learn to make reusable sanitary pads themselves.”

Two South Sudanese girls waving in front of a blackboard with red bowls
Girls are most vulnerable in refugee camps

baby care

“Because of sexual violence and child marriage, there are many teenage mothers in the camps. They want to finish school, but are unable to because they do not have childcare facilities for their children. Last year, Plan International was able to ensure that there is childcare in schools, So that moms can follow the lessons.”

stress and distraction

“Unfortunately, there is less money this year and we have had to stop childcare again. Now mothers are in line with their children or children are hanging out in the school yard. This creates additional pressure and distraction. So the situation in refugee camps is still difficult, especially for girls” .

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This is what Plan International does

With the help of ECHO (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid), Plan International operates in several refugee camps in South Sudan:

  • We take care of him Kids friendly placeswhere children learn what their rights are and where they can go for support;
  • We provide girls who have been subjected to sexual violence Psychosocial support
  • make sure schools are built, teachers are trained and paid and school materials are available;
  • make sure there Toilets and water points They are installed in schools, so that clean water is available and girls do not have to walk great distances;
  • to Awareness campaigns We educate parents, community leaders and educators about the risks of child marriage and how to best protect their children from sexual violence;
  • we share care packages Go out with basic necessities like soap and sanitary pads.

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