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One-stop care centre provides survivor-centered comprehensive care for clients


JUBA, South Sudan – Violence against women is epidemic in South Sudan. Ann*, 16, was kidnapped on her way home from school, then raped repeatedly during five days of captivity. Talia*, was battered and tortured for years by her husband, who even threatened to kill her. 

Tragically, stories like theirs are all too common in South Sudan, where violence against women is epidemic. Though comprehensive data are not available, a 2017 survey by the International Rescue Committee and Global Women’s Institute found that some 65 per cent of women interviewed from three locations in South Sudan had experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.  

The ongoing conflict in South Sudan has exacerbated the problem of gender-based violence, with sexual violence sometimes used as a weapon of war.Services to support survivors are often difficult to access and, if available, most are provided by non-government organizations.

“Women should get everything they need in one place,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem during a visit to South Sudan today, where she observed a programme designed to remedy this problem.

A transformation

UNFPA supports programmes to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in South Sudan, including training social workers and health staff to sensitively and professionally meet the needs of violence survivors.  

The Family Protection Centre in Juba Teaching Hospital is the first facility in South Sudan to adopt the one-stop center concept of providing comprehensive services for survivors of gender-based violence under one roof, helping to ensure survivors receive the full range of care available, including clinical treatment for rape, psychological first aid, counselling, legal support and other services. 

“We opened the centre eight months ago, and everyday women, young and old, walk into the facility, crying, afraid, depressed, needing someone to talk to, and with high hopes that they have come to the right place,” said Roseline Pita, a social worker at the centre. 

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) which runs the centre with the support of UNFPA says they have helped 366 cases since they opened in November 2017. ©UNFPA South Sudan/Arlene Alano

The centre, supported with funding from the governments of Canada and Sweden, is already making a difference. 

“We have witnessed a transformation from victims to empowered and well-informed survivors,” Ms. Pita said of the clients that go to the facility. “After weeks of undergoing counselling and psychosocial support, they come back to the centre and you can barely tell that they were the same women.” 

Ann, the kidnapped teenager, was able to receive counselling services. Because she feared the perpetrators might find her, she was also referred to a safe house run by another organization. She has dropped out of school as her family could no longer afford the fees but she continues to meet with Family Protection Centre social workers. 

The centre has even helped to secure a couple of speedy prosecutions – a rarity in South Sudan – part of efforts working with government partners to end impunity for sexual and gender-based violence. 

Talia, for instance, received both medical and legal support from the centre. Her husband is now in prison, and she regularly meets with social workers from the centre.

Reaching those in needs

The one-stop centre model, with integrated medical, psychosocial, legal and support services for survivors, has proved successful at reaching those in need.

“Considering that this facility just opened last November, they have already prosecuted two cases. We need to replicate this example of the one-stop centre, which provides comprehensive services for survivors of gender-based violence,” said Dr. Kanem as she toured the centre.

Dr. Kanem with UNFPA South Sudan Representative Mary Otieno. ©UNFPA South Sudan/Arlene Alano

Since it opened in November of last year, 366 women, girls, and even boys have visited the centre to receive advice and services. 

Social workers also perform outreach in the community, raising awareness about women’s rights, the need to end gender-based violence, and the support services available at the centre.

And centre staff hope to expand the care they provide. “There are other life-saving interventions that we can look at, such as establishing safe houses,” said Ms. Pita. “We also need to provide private wards for young girls who need specialized care and attention.”

UNFPA is now working to create three additional one-stop centres in Rumbek, Malualkon and Wau.

*Names changed for privacy and safety