A holistic community-based approach is the most positive one
In 2011, South Sudan became the world’s newest country, and within two years, the country fell into a civil war. Sustained conflict and disasters such as droughts, famine, seasonal floods, and cholera and malaria outbreaks have resulted in at least 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
This 1.7 million and an additional 330,000 refugees from neighboring countries live in and around six current and former Protection of Civilians (POC) camps, settling in the camps, churches, schools, abandoned factories, and other so-called collective sites, or in spontaneous settlements and villages further from the fighting.
IsraAID has been active in these vulnerable communities since the state was founded, working with thousands of displaced families. Their needs are ever-changing, and we have had to learn to adapt and expand our activities. Our approach must be both flexible and holistic – for displaced communities, it is impossible to separate nutritional challenges, from access to healthcare, and mental health support.
Margret is a mother of eight living in Gurei. After the death of her husband, she joined IsraAID to learn new skills and meet other women.
“Before I came to the Women & Girl Friendly Space, I did not know about the different forms of violence against women and girls. Since I joined IsraAID’s activities, I feel strong enough to stand up for myself and talk about my experiences.”
Since its establishment in 2014, over 32,000 people have settled in the Juba IDP camp seeking protection. However, reports of sexual and gender-based violence have increased, and people are at high risk of physical and psychological trauma. Women, girls, and people with disabilities are too often exposed to violence, both inside the displacement site and when they venture outside the camp to collect fuel or food. The most vulnerable groups face a myriad of protection concerns as they go through multiple relocations to seek better living conditions or flee violence. Humanitarian funding is increasingly stretched, and the displaced population keeps growing, leaving thousands of families in Juba in need of support.
IsraAID’s programs target over 30% of the population in Juba IDP camps 1 and 3. They integrate elements of protection, sexual and reproductive health, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. Together with our partners, we are focusing on tackling the root causes of problems affecting the IDP community, while enhancing resilience.
With limited income opportunities and poor sanitation in overcrowded camps, access to health and medical services is essential. In Juba, IsraAID directly oversees several health-related services, referring patients to local or humanitarian partners to get the help they need. We have partnered with the Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Health to provide capacity-building workshops and coordination for their staff and departments at all levels. This is most visible through the Community Outreach Network composed of reproductive health officers, community case workers, community mobilizers, and community engagement facilitators that promote the empowerment of all community members.
“I learnt new skills both during women group sessions and business skills management, and even though I did not attend the training, I still got ideas from exchanging experiences in the business discussions with the women entrepreneurs. This has helped me obtain business ideas and depend on my own skills to support my family.” – Margret
The Community Outreach Network within IsraAID’s global and South Sudanese activities is essential for capacity building within organizations, with our partners, and the communities we serve. Our community based-approach helps identify gaps to support families. This approach incorporates social work and mental health principles and as they provide access to services and safe spaces. The communication team raises awareness among the community about protection issues, culturally appropriate coping mechanisms to address risks, and precise information on sexual and reproductive health, nutrition, and hygiene.
We use protection measures in all of our programs, relying on key principles of safety and dignity. These principles, like ‘do no harm,’ maximizing access, and accountability, help us address the needs of the community in the most positive and empowering way possible.
With everchanging population and needs, there are massive funding challenges that urgently need action. Please donate to IsraAID.
Lydia Layaa is IsraAID South Sudan’s Program Manager