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    Posted May 28, 2014 by
    Malakal, South Sudan

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    South Sudan: Children in Conflict


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     WorldVision1 told me, 'All the children I met were extremely vulnerable because they had been forced to flee by fighting. They aren't eating enough. They are living in terrible conditions. And they have all lost friends, relatives or neighbors to the fighting. But in the child friendly space that World Vision has set up on the UN base in Malakal I saw children really be children again. This is the one time of the day when the children can forget about their terrible situation and be free to play and be children. I took many of the portraits because I wanted to remind people that every disaster has a face, and it's often that of a child.'
    - hhanks, CNN iReport producer

    When we think of humanitarian emergencies in distant places we often disengage. The numbers seem so large, the disasters so frequent, the people remote and unknowable. And when we don’t know someone we often don’t really care about them, or worse, sometimes even blame those who are most vulnerable for their own misfortune. Even in my line of work it’s easy to forget that there are individuals at the end of a disaster headline.


    This is why I took this series of portraits, captured in World Vision's child friendly space – a safe zone for children who have witnessed the worst of humanity and who are living in extraordinarily difficult circumstances on a UN camp in Malakal, South Sudan. I think it’s important to look into the eyes of these children and think about what the future should hold.


    These children fled their hometown to the UN base in the face of several brutal offensives and counter offensives in which possibly thousands of citizens were slaughtered as they ran or hid in churches, homes and hospitals. As they bolted to the base the children and their families evaded armed men who hunted them like animals. Dead bodies were strewn on their escape route. All these children have lost relatives, neighbors or friends. Malakal is now a ghost town of trashed and looted buildings and homes.


    Living space on the UN camp just over a mile from their deserted village, is crammed full. There is no formal schooling. World Vision has managed to carve out a space where all ages of children can come and play, sing and be a child again.--James East, World Vision aid worker and photographer in South Sudan

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