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.

Selected Outcomes

  • 1,200 youth (450 female) directly benefitted from a newly established resource center in Rumbek Town that trained youth on computer skills and served as an information hub.
  • 11 women’s groups strengthened through capacity building, vocational training, leadership training, and provision of infrastructure, such as women’s centers and grinding mills.
  • Supported 341 peace initiatives through dialogues and forums, benefiting 154,731 participants.
  • Provided critical infrastructure and operational support to 6 radio stations (2 national and 4 local), giving the entire country improved access to timely and accurate information.
  • Improved WASH conditions: 22,180 people were supplied with safe and clean drinking water; 14,935 persons gained secure access to sanitation facilities, and 4,355 people were equipped with information on proper hygiene practices.
  • Aided with the purchase and installation of solar lighting in two UN Protection of Civilians camps, which benefitted 31,000 internally displaced persons.
  • Engaged 6,452 community members in various types of trauma awareness sessions. This was a significant improvement (28%) from the 5,038 reached in 2017.
  • Implemented 41 projects during 2018: activities included providing support for inter- and intra-tribal peace dialogues, support to civil society actors, livelihood activities for youth, small-scale infrastructure and WASH activities, and support to traditional authorities.

Project Highlight: Shining the Light to a Better Life in Malakal, South Sudan

In November 2018, 40 youth from the Malakal PoC were selected by VISTAS and the Youth & Women Advocacy Network to participate in a five-day training session that taught them how to repair and troubleshoot malfunctioning solar lights.

In South Sudan, the Protection of Civilian (PoC) site in Malakal, Upper Nile state, is home to roughly 30,000 internally displaced persons and represents some of the most conflict-affected communities within the country: Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk. In a PoC as diverse as Malakal, it is hard for residents to block out pre-existing inter-communal disputes, which exacerbates tensions and leads to violence. Within the PoC, insufficient lighting poses serious safety and security challenges, especially with access to latrines, water points and other key transit points at night, and in some conditions is deemed life threatening. The need for lighting not only serves as a basic day-to-day resource but it also reduces the prevalence of violence and crime, especially towards women and girls. To address this need, our USAID Viable Support to Transition and Stability (VISTAS) project, in collaboration with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, installed 70 solar lights in the Malakal PoC over the last two years.

In 2016, a survey commissioned by VISTAS in the Malakal PoC, found that 38% of the Nuer community had witnessed rape, while 17% reported a family member being raped and 8% of individuals shared they had been raped. As a direct response to the survey, VISTAS took action by conducting a community mapping exercise to identify key locations for solar light placement in order to facilitate safe movement at night and prevent further occurrence of gender-based violence. After the completion of the mapping exercise, solar lights were installed near latrines, water points and along transit routes. Successively, VISTAS was able to directly benefit 6,000 PoC residents and assist in the reduction of conflict within the camp.

Under the supervision of a technician, trainees apply their skills by repairing broken or malfunctioning solar lights within the Malakal POC.

To build upon the installation of solar lights within the Malakal PoC, VISTAS and the Youth & Women Advocacy Network selected 40 youth, including 10 women, in November 2018 to participate in a five-day training session that addressed the need to repair and troubleshoot malfunctioning solar lights. The training provided essential technical skills, knowledge and tools to conduct solar light maintenance. Following the training, VISTAS engaged each participant to apply their skills and knowledge by repairing 27 broken or malfunctioning solar lights under the supervision of a technician. To attest to the effectiveness of the training, all solar lights that were reported as broken were successfully repaired by the youth participants.

Overall, the provision of solar lights has proven to reduce gender-based violence, mitigate conflict and strengthen community resilience within the PoC. Nehemiah Toung Aba, a community member and training program graduate remarked, “These solar lights are helping a lot; they are preventing the criminals from stealing, are used by [students] who read under the poles and they also help people when going to the [restrooms]. And for me, I now have skills and knowledge about the functions of the charger controller, solar panels and the batteries as well as their connections, which I and the rest of my friends did not know before; and we can now do the repairing on our own.”

For additional information, contact hilary.smith@aecom.com or ashlee.cox@aecom.com.