05/01/2006 - Ottawa, Canada:
SOS Children's Villages offers ongoing trauma treatment for war-affected children and women in Darfur Ottawa, Canada: SOS Children's Villages Canada National Director Boyd McBride echoes the hopes of development and aid organizations around the world as rebels in Sudan's Darfur region agree to a 48-hour extension of negotiations for a peace proposal to end a conflict that has claimed at least 180,000 lives and left close to two million homeless.
Commenting on the international child welfare organization's work with war-affected children and women in Darfur, McBride said that ensuring the safety of the women and children being treated for trauma by the organization’s medical staff is a priority. The organization created fenced and guarded "safe areas" around its two SOS Family Centres in the Abu Shouk refugee camp in northern Darfur. The camp houses around 80,000 refugees.
"Children in this war-torn region are in huge peril," he said. "They are exposed to hunger, loss and death on a daily basis while so many have been orphaned or separated from their families. Young girls and single women in the refugee camps are also exposed to sexual and physical abuse," he continued.
McBride explained that specialized staff from SOS Children's Villages, which is the world's largest international charity for orphaned and abandoned children, are dealing with an ever increasing number of children suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition seriously affects a child's mental, emotional, and physical health.
"We expanded our work in the Darfur region in 2003 in response to the escalation of fighting," he said. "The safe areas give single mothers a secure place to care for their own children. But these women also help SOS staff to care for other orphaned and unaccompanied children. Each mother will care for seven to eight children, in temporary housing within a protected environment, providing food and other basic necessities," he explained. "Our aim is to give these vulnerable mothers and children treatment and counselling to help them overcome severe trauma and gain the courage to go on with their lives."
SOS Children's Villages has been carrying out humanitarian work in Sudan since 1978. It operates two children's Villages, eight social centres as well as kindergartens, schools and vocational training centres. Since 2004, the organization, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross and local authorities, has been operating a reintegration project for former child soldiers in southern Sudan. Under this program child soldiers are reunited with their families.
The majority of these children – some as young as eight years of age -- were recruited by force to fight in a civil war which has raged for more than two decades. "We want these children to be able to go home, to go to school and to reclaim their lives," said McBride.