Connecting Kids despite Conflict

Ambassador Nicholas Coghlan with children at a protection of civilians site recording messages of greeting for friends.
Youth in a protection of civilians camp record messages of greeting for friends.

In December 2013, as war abruptly broke out in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, thousands of civilians fled for their lives to United Nations compounds all over the country. Now known as Protection of Civilians sites, or PoCs, these areas still house 113,000 people, and a further 1.4 million are living in more informal shelters across the country. Working with partner organizations, Canada has been taking steps to ensure that the people in these camps and shelters have safe access to services that keep families and friends together despite the civil war.

A Safe Space

Non-Governmental Organizations and the United Nations provide basic services within the PoCs, but conditions throughout the country remain dire. The lack of protections means most of the residents fear to set foot outside camps. As a result they have lost contact with their friends and families, who are now scattered through other camps, across South Sudan and Internationally Displaced People’s camps in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia.

Working with two NGOs, PACT and Free Voice, the Canadian Embassy is sponsoring and supporting a project that is reconnecting children with the friends they have not seen in more than a year.

Children on the Radio

This Canada-led program encourages groups of boys and girls to record short greeting messages that are later replayed in other camps across South Sudan. Despite the ongoing conflict and the inability of these children to leave the camps, the Embassy has been able to reconnect a number of friends.

As well as sending audio messages, the children make colourful drawings to send both to the old friends they’ve reconnected with and to the new ones they’ve made. A special connection has been established for this project between the children of Juba’s PoC sites and the Juba girls’ orphanage, Confident Children out of Conflict. Children from across South Sudan are also highlighted in a new radio show, Sawa Shabab, a radio drama for youth produced by Free Voice.
The Canadian Embassy in South Sudan is proud to be able to contribute to the lives of these children by reconnecting friends and families across long and dangerous distances. Canada will continue to champion the rights of children caught in conflict both in South Sudan and around the world. The Embassy is proud to support this project to make sure children’s friendships do not become another casualty of the ongoing civil war.