“Do something for our future”: South Sudan’s former child soldiers appeal during FOCUS Project launch

Mboriegie Hellen Mustafa, 16, raised her passionate appeal for fellow children during the launch of the Focusing on Children with Unmet Child Protection Needs in South Sudan (FOCUS) Project funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Development (BMZ) on 12 August 2021 in Yambio County, the capital of South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State.

Mustafa adds, “We have been suffering a lot. We have no voice and we are vulnerable. Do something to children who are still in the bush. We need peace for us to be secure, to study, to have opportunities for the future.” Since 2013, UNICEF supported the release of 3,785 children associated with armed forces and armed groups in South Sudan.

The event was graced by ArchBishop Barani Edwardo Hiiboro Kussala of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, ArchBishop Samuel Enosa Peni, the Chairman, Interfaith Committee, Hon. Grace Apollo, the State Minister for Education, and Hon. Anigunde Cecilia, the State Minister for Gender.

The leaders and local partners who joined World Vision and CEPO during the project launch.


Western Equatoria Governor Hon. Alfred Futuyo was represented by the State Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Minister Hon. Elia Box reiterated the State Government’s support for humanitarian work and efforts to respond to the people’s needs. 

The children were led by child advocates Mboriegie Hellen Mustafa and Stephen Gabriel Yore who urged for all the leaders and the humanitarian community not to leave behind the former child soldiers and even those still in the bush. Forty-five local partners, traditional and community leaders, faith leaders, and children’s groups attended the launch. 

World Vision’s Country Director Dr. Mesfin Loha appreciated the commitment of all the stakeholders in support of World Vision and CEPO. “The is one project with many components to address the needs of the most vulnerable population, and will involve many groups and partners with children at the center of the concerted efforts.”

Do something to children who are still in the bush. We need peace for us to be secure, to study, to have opportunities for the future.

Hon. Anigunde Cecilia highlighted the need to support and empower women enabling them to become entrepreneurs by providing more training and resources. Hon. Grace Apollo recalled World Vision’s long presence in the state even during the conflict and how the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the state of education among children.

Hon. ArchBishop Edwardo Hiiboro reminded of the presence and involvement of families in the project as part of the people’s rich culture and can play an important role in the project’s success. This was supported by Archbishop Samuel Enosa Peni who added that parents must also be empowered so they can guide their children.

The FOCUS Project will be implemented by a consortium composed of Word Vision South Sudan and Community Empowered for Progress Organization (CEPO) in Yambio County to support 2,000 children affected by the conflict, especially the released children associated with armed forces and groups. 

World Vision's Country Director and CEPO representative sign the memorandum of understanding during the event.


The support will include providing comprehensive child protection case management services, family tracing and reunification, medical check, nutrition screening, education assessment/referral, psychosocial support, and safe referral and legal services. The project will also focus on 18,000 women, girls, men, and boys through information/awareness-raising on children’s rights, child protection issues including prevention of recruitment. 

An estimated 21,250 indirect beneficiaries, comprised of women, girls, men, and boys will be reached with intercommunal and intergenerational dialogues focusing on prevention of involvement of children in conflict, violations against children, women, and other marginalized groups, among others.

One local partner said she is confident that World Vision and CEPO will be able to meet the commitments of the project and implement it well because from the beginning, it has involved the faith leaders, the child advocates, and the key state ministers.

The child advocates of Western Equatoria State appeal that no children should be left behind in education and opportunities to advance their future.


Cover Photo: (From left: Hon. State Minister Grace Apollo, ArchBishop Edwardo Hiiboro, Dr. Mesfin Loha, ArchBishop Samuel Peni and Hon. Anigunde Cecilia.

Story and photos by Cecil Laguardia, Senior Manager for Advocacy and Communications