South Sudan and the IUCW

International Union for Child Welfare, Juba, South Sudan 1973-75

South Sudan had been at war with the North from 1955 to 1972 when the Peace Agreement was signed in 1972. This had resulted in huge dislocation of its population – part of which were involved in active fighting, or support of the fighters (the Anyanya): and part of which involved a considerable diaspora as South Sudanese left their home country to cross borders into Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Central African Republic, Zaire, Chad.

The Government of South Sudan invited the International Union for Child Welfare (IUCW) to execute a two year project for the rehabilitation of “street boys” and vagrant children in Juba, Malakal, Wau and Aweil (Aweil added later). IUCW sent Beryl Knotts and Richard Holloway in August 1973 to work with, initially, the Dept of Youth , Sports, and Social Services of the Ministry of Information: this subsequently changed, as Government was re-organised, and we worked with a newly formed Socxial Welfare Dept, under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. At this time, the South Sudan’s government was considered a regional government of the whole of the Sudan, and IUCW’s mandate was agreed by the government in Khartoum. Beryl Knotts and Richard Holloway worked initially through Simon Mori, as Senior inspector until he stood for, and was elected to the regional parliament, and then through Fa. Chacha Kosta. The local staff of the project who were initially paid for by IUCW, were mostly absorbed by the Dept of Social Welfare, and they comprised people who had come back from training and experience in all the surrounding countries, often all their working lives. A large task was absorbing and synchronising training of all these people for their work.

In the second year of the project, the IUCW staff were joined by David Talbot as a Building Supervisor, and Alan Whiffin who was a probation adviser.

Since the Ministries of, successively, Information and Health, had no facilities of their own, an important task for the project was to provide such facilities, and then to design and train for the activities to take place in these facilities. The building of multi-purpose social service and training centres in Juba, Wau, Malakal and Aweil and the insertion of these into the communities of those towns became the on-the job apprenticeship for the south Sudanese social workers; once the centres were built programmes and activities of vocational training were carried out. An important part of the project was building the skills and competences of the staff of the Social Welfare Dept. to continue once the project ended.

The International Union for Child Welfare, based in Geneva, started life as a coordinating body for the various Save the Children organisations in the North and West, and then started to run its own independent programmes – one of which was this project in South Sudan. In time, this proved an unacceptable arrangement for the various Save the Children organisations and IUCW went out of business.

South Sudan was officially at peace between 73-75, but the peace was uneasy with outbreaks of fighting between Dinka and Nuer (often reflecting traditional or carrel stealing warfare), one attempted coup in Juba, and much posturing between North and South – which soon broke out into more overt fighting which continued for even longer than the 17 years of the first period of fighting.

Logistics was a regular problem of the project since the trade route from the North did not function well, and goods were brought in overland from Kenya, via Uganda (which was in turmoil under Idi Amin at the time). There was no question that South Sudan was a difficult place to work with considerable sickness and civil disturbances to interrupt the smooth execution of the project.



During the time of the project IUCW was successful in building a team of competent social work staff for the Social Welfare Dept of the Ministry of Health of the Regional Govt of the South Sudan, designing with them programs of work that addressed the vagrant and unattached children that were the inheritance of the previous years of war, and building assets for the Ministry that could be the basis of their future work.

One innovative part of the work was to bridge the case-based social work practices that were the backbone of most of our staff with the community development and work camp approach that was involved in building Social Centres in the four towns where our work was concentrated.

However, since South Sudan soon entered further decades of civil war and repeated atrocities by both sides, many of the people we trained sought asylum outside the country, and were not there during the civil war or in the peace that finally came with the creation of a new country. It is difficult to see the long term achievements of the project.



  • Final Report on the Programme for Vagrant and “Unattached” children, South Sudan, Sept 1973 – July 1975. International Union for Child Welfare, Geneva, Switzerland.


Back to top