Ethiopia (MNN) – Bethany Christian Services recently kicked off a partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to serve South Sudanese refugees fleeing to Ethiopia.
South Sudan Civil War
South Sudan has become a toxic environment for its citizens due to violence emanating from the civil war.
According to a report by the Aid Worker Security Database, for the third consecutive year, South Sudan has been named the number one most violent country where aid is delivered.
“I was in South Sudan about approximately a year and a half ago,” Bethany Christian Services’ President Chris Palusky says.
“It’s the most violent place I have ever been. I have worked in disaster zones around the world, and I was up in the north of the country in Malakal. It’s the only place that I’ve been that I saw a foot over there, I saw a head over there. The violence was incredible. These people are fleeing from really, one of the most violent places on Earth. They’re fleeing for their lives.”
Third Worst Refugee Crisis
According to the UNHCR, this is the third worst refugee crisis in the world, just behind Syria and Afghanistan.
More than 2 million people are displaced within the nation of South Sudan and there are more than 2 million South Sudanese refugees throughout the world.
A majority of the people fleeing are women and children, many who have been victims of violent attacks and sexual assault.
Sixty-five percent of the refugees from the nation are people under the age of 18.
Three-hundred-thousand of the South Sudanese refugees have fled to refugee camps in Ethiopia for protection. Among these have been more than 40,000 unaccompanied refugee minors who have been deeply traumatized by the violence they’ve seen and faced in their home nation.
“Many of these children are in desperate need of both mental health and social support services, but also for loving and protective families to keep them safe,” Bethany’s Vice President of Global Programs, Kristy Gleason, says.
Providing for the Vulnerable
In order to provide mental health, social support, and humanitarian aid for children and women in refugee camps, Bethany and the UNHCR formed a partnership to address these needs in two camps in Gambella, Ethiopia.
“What we will focus on are our efforts to develop a more established and formal foster care service in the refugee camps in Gambella to protect children coming across the border without their families. We also will be providing psychosocial support to women and children affected by trauma… which really means group therapy for refugees that have experienced trauma,” Gleason explains.
Bethany’s efforts will work in tandem with the UNHCR’s humanitarian efforts in giving food, water, and shelter to these vulnerable people.
Bethany has done foster care and case management programs in Ethiopia for the last ten years, focusing on serving the most vulnerable children. The program has proven highly effective and the ministry is motivated to now begin these programs in the refugee camps of Gambela.
Often, unaccompanied children have been taken in by families, but they have not been treated the same as biological children. This can lead to abuse or neglect. Bethany’s program of formal foster care eradicates the inequality and trains foster families to love and provide for foster children completely.
“We will also be working to support foster families and foster parents who’ve gone through traumatic events to help guide children and families through symptoms and behaviors that are associated with experiencing the levels of trauma that these families have faced,” Gleason says.
“So, our services will really target that complex level of trauma that families face, including grief and loss for victims of violence, displacement, and family separation.”
Impact Around the World
Though the programs have only begun, the impact has been immediate and drawn attention from other nations.
Palusky shares that Bethany has already been approached to replicate the programs in Colombia with Venezuelans that have fled their country.
“With the recent number of refugees around the world, such programs aren’t only a necessity, but they’re vital,” Palusky says.
Pray over the partnership between Bethany and the UNHCR. Pray for the civil war, the violence, and the assaults in South Sudan to end, and pray for the safety of those who are fleeing South Sudan.