Building on over 10 years of SWIFT II and III experience in Sudan and now South Sudan, AECOM provides the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with a fast and flexible mechanism for responding to the complex and fluid political situation in South Sudan. VISTAS’ goal is to mitigate the further spread of communal violence and rising tensions in critical areas where local level conflict may have national implications. To this end, the project has four objectives: to increase space and tools to manage conflict and tensions, build cross-line interdependency to promote peaceful coexistence, promote a more informed community, and engage communities in trauma awareness to lay the foundation for healing and reconciliation.
- 164,880 community members across South Sudan have participated in 159 VISTAS supported peace dialogues to resolve local level conflicts.
- 43 construction projects are providing much needed community infrastructure to support peace actors, including community leaders, traditional authorities, youth and women.
- 41,500 pastoralists now have access to clean drinking water along the migration routes through 24 hand dug wells, 7 boreholes and 2 water yards.
- Facilitated access to reliable information and a broader range of programming for an estimated 2.5 million people living in South Sudan and nearby refugee camps: funded both Shortwave and FM programming content and broadcasts; distributed thousands of shortwave radios; trained 142 journalists; built two radio stations and improved two others.
- 39,000 (15,000 female) internally displaced persons (IDPs) in two UN camps benefitted from solar lighting, foot bridges and tertiary drainage system projects which facilitated improved security, movement and access.
- 6,489 (1,640 female) South Sudanese directly benefitted and an estimated 19,467 individuals (family and friends) indirectly benefited from trauma awareness to promote healing and reconciliation within and among communities throughout the country.
Project Highlight: Shortwave Broadcasts Promote Access to Information
The USAID-funded Viable Support to Transition and Stability (VISTAS) project works to mitigate the further spread of communal violence and rising tensions in critical areas of South Sudan where local level conflicts may have national implications.
Throughout South Sudan, radio is the most widely used platform to access information, primarily due to low literacy rates, logistical constraints in newspaper distribution and restricted television signals outside of the capital city of Juba. The media is politically polarized and the numbers of impartial outlets are scarce. As a result, citizens are regularly exposed to one-sided narratives which give space to militarization and mobilization of combatants based on poor understanding of the context and lack of balanced reporting.
To counter these challenges, VISTAS supported Radio Tamazuj and Eye Radio shortwave broadcasts from May 2017 to November 2017. During that time period, over 600,000 South Sudanese gained access to the shortwave broadcast from locations as far as Egypt, refugee camps in Uganda and Ethiopia, and several remote in-country locations including Unity, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Equatorial States. According to listeners, broadcasts from both Radio Tamazuj and Eye Radio have provided balanced news and information on peace processes, civic education, health, agriculture, education, culture and gender. Furthermore, the broadcasters gave citizens the opportunity to voice their concerns through call-in programs. For South Sudanese internally displaced people and refugees, being able to monitor the country’s political climate over shortwave is important as they decide whether to return home. With access to adequate news outlets, listeners in Akobo have been able to create safety action plans to counter famine and disease outbreaks by receiving early warnings.
In addition to supporting shortwave broadcasts, VISTAS has distributed over 12,000 windup radios during the lifetime of the program. Radios allow communities to access either FM or shortwave broadcasts and are often cited as a major solution among communities with poor access to information.