ECHO’s support realises a safe space for South Sudan refugee children to be children

By Charlene Thompson

Children in one of the child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp
Children in one of the child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Thompson

Gambella, Ethiopia 31 October, 2014 – There’s an exciting game of volleyball being played and both the participants and spectators are intently focused on the next move. A young boy serves and the ball hits the net; he doesn’t quite get it over but the children are laughing.

It’s a scene that could have taken place on any playground, with any group of children but this game is being played in the Kule Refugee Camp in Gambella, Ethiopia and all of the children here fled the war in South Sudan. This volleyball game is being played in one of the child friendly spaces (CFS) developed by UNICEF and Plan International with the financial support of ECHO and in partnership with Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) who manage the camp.

“This child friendly space is providing a safe area for children in this camp where they can play and learn and be themselves,” said Chuol Yar, a 27 year old refugee who is one of the camp’s community child protection workers. “This is a place where they can come and feel protected and love themselves. If they cannot do this here, then we are not doing things well,” he added.

According to UNICEF, child friendly spaces are designed to support the resilience and well‐being of children and young people through community organised, structured activities conducted in a safe, child friendly, and stimulating environment. Through the partnership between UNICEF and Plan International, 31 community child protection workers (14 female and 17 male) were trained in June and are currently providing support to children in two permanent and three temporary child friendly spaces in the Kule Camp.

They received training in principles of child friendly spaces, management of child friendly spaces, developing activities for children and monitoring and response to the needs of children.

The child friendly spaces in the Kule Refugee Camp cater to children from 3-18 years of age and they provide play areas for football, volleyball, jump rope and other outdoor activities. In addition, there are traditional storytelling sessions, dramas that are performed by the children, singing, reading materials and spaces where adolescents can engage in peer discussions.

South Sudan refugee children play in child friendly centre in Gambella Ethiopia
South Sudan refugee children play in child friendly centre in Gambella Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

The community child protection workers also visit homes in the Kule Camp to encourage parents to send their children to the child friendly spaces.

“I let the parents know all of the activities that we have in the child friendly spaces and tell them that it is a protected space where the children can play safely,” said David Riang, another community child protection worker at the refugee camp. “The parents usually agree and send the children to the child friendly spaces,” he said as his colleague Chuol quickly added “I tell them without play children cannot learn. Play is important for a child’s mental development.”

In addition to the Kule Camp, UNICEF, with the support of ECHO, is supporting child friendly spaces at the Tierkidi Camp and at the Akobo border entry point. “The children in these camps have already experienced very difficult and tragic circumstances in their short lives. The aim of these child friendly spaces is to provide a safe space where a child can come and be a child,” said Tezra Masini, Chief of the UNICEF Field Office in Gambella.

For many of the community child protection workers this experience has also provided them with the opportunity to develop skills and actively participate in supporting their community. Many are from the same regions in South Sudan and having fled war also share similar experiences with the children. They communicate with the children in their local language and tell traditional stories and social teachings of their clan.

“My dream if God is willing is to become a medical doctor and support my community,” Chuol said and it is a sentiment expressed by other community child protection workers as well. “My dream is for our children to have a better future and hopefully return home one day to a peaceful South Sudan,” noted Bigoa Kuong, a 24 year old social worker who then quickly added with a broad smile, “and also a basketball court for the children to play.”

German Development Bank grants 5 million Euros to UNICEF for the South Sudanese refugee response in Ethiopia

To benefit an estimated 250,000 people including both refugees and vulnerable host communities

ADDIS ABABA, 15 January 2015: The German Development Bank (KfW), today announced a 5 million Euros grant (close to 6 million US$) to UNICEF Ethiopia to improve access to quality basic services for South Sudanese refugees and host communities in the Gambella Region of Ethiopia.

The generous contribution provided by KfW, on behalf of the Government of Germany will be used to provide high impact humanitarian interventions in the areas of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), health, nutrition, education and child protection to an estimated 250,000 people including both refugees and vulnerable host communities.

Since the conflict started in South Sudan a year ago, more than 190,900 refugees have crossed the border into the Gambella Region in Ethiopia. The majority of the new arrivals are women comprising of 80 per cent of the adult population and 70 per cent of children from the total population.

“With this contribution from the German Government, some of the most vulnerable groups of South Sudanese refugees – namely children and their mothers – as well as the host communities in eastern Ethiopia will be supported during these very difficult times,” said Klaus Pfeiffer, Director of the German Development Bank (KfW) Office to Ethiopia and African Union.

UNICEF works with the regional government, Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, UNHCR, other UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided in neutral, impartial and timely manner; addressing the inequalities and disparities and contributing to building resilience of the affected communities.

“We are grateful to KfW for its support for these life-saving interventions, which will focus on improving access to quality basic services for South Sudan refugees and host communities in Gambella Region of Ethiopia,” said UNICEF Representative a.i, Anupama Rao Singh. “We believe that the funding will significantly improve the lives of women and children as well as strengthen the service delivery structure within the host communities,” she added.

More specifically, the following results are expected to be achieved through this funding:

  • An estimated 110,000 refugees and vulnerable host communities will have access to safe drinking water, 40,000 people will have access to appropriate sanitation facilities (toilets and showers) and 150,000 people will receive hygiene promotion messages and materials;
  • An estimated 100,000 will have access to an improved health care system through capacity building and infrastructure development, 37,000 children will be vaccinated against measles and 15,000 households will receive long-lasting insecticidal nets;
  • 55,000 under five children and 10,000 pregnant and lactating women will have access to nutrition services;
  • An estimated 45,000 host communities and refugee children will access quality education through the establishment of temporary learning facilities and new schools;
  • 36,400 of the most vulnerable children will receive psychosocial support through the setting up of Child Friendly Spaces;
  • An estimated 2,000 unaccompanied and separated children will be reunited with their families.

For further information, please contact:

Imruwa Demissie, KfW Ethiopia, Tel.: +251 115180241; email:

Wossen Mulatu, UNICEF Ethiopia, Tel.: +251 115184028 ; email: