Bor — South Sudan Red Cross (SSRC) has launched a three-state child protection unit in Jonglei state capital Bor which will provide in school psychological counselling to children severely traumatised by the country's ongoing conflict.
South Sudan Red Cross (SSRC) director for Jonglei state David Gai Deer speaks to the press at Bor Public Primary school on 16 August 2014 (ST)
The program, which will be rolled out in Lakes, Central Equatoria and Jonglei states, will target children up to 18 years of age.
"The activities have a strong psychological support element, providing a caring and normalising environment to lessen the impact of the crisis on the children," said SSRC's Bor-based director, David Gai Deer.
Deer said the program's core aim was to help provide coping mechanisms for traumatised and vulnerable children who have been exposed to violence.
A similar exercise was launched in Juba on 27 July, with the Lakes state program is soon to be launched targeting internally displaced people in Awerial.
"We are launching the unit of pyscho-social support. The most important part of this program is to help children who are traumatised and exposed to the risk during the conflict," said Deer while speaking at the program's launch at Bor Public Primary school on Saturday.
"We found out that many children had been affected in one way or another and that is the reason South Sudan Red Cross with its partners brought this program to help these children here to create a friendly space for the children in order to come back to their normal lives," he added.
He said the program would benefit all school-aged children across the three states, and is aiming to reach an average of 5,000 children per state.
Red Cross experts will be visiting schools to provide counselling services to children identified by their schools as being in need.
Red Cross is not only limited to government-controlled areas in Jonglei, but also operates in rebel-held areas in the northern part of the state, including Nyirol, Ayod, Akobo and Uror.
One of the biggest challenges facing the program's roll out will be in mobilising children for counselling as most schools have been closed in those areas as a result of the conflict.
Other items provided to schools include balls, drawing materials, chalk, dominoes, ropes for skipping games and first aid kits.
Deer said psychological counselling will also be available to adults suffering trauma as a result of the eight-month-long conflict.
The deputy head teacher of Bor public primary school, Mayen Manyang Mach, said it's hoped the program will help children cope with their recent difficulties and continue their education once the current crisis is resolved.
"With this initiative, the teachers would see changes on how the children behave. Once any case of this kind is identified doctors would help in counselling," said Mayen.
Bor primary, which opened in May, currently has 400 pupils, half of last year's enrolment.
The psychological support program will be funded by the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for a period of one year in South Sudan.