South Sudan has been exposed to armed conflict for nearly half a decade. This persistent violence has affected over 7 million people, 4.4 million of whom are children, including adolescents. Out of the 4 million people who are internally displaced and refugees, 2.6 million are children, including adolescents.

In 2018, the Government and key opposition groups signed a peace agreement, but the effects of the conflict – as well as simultaneous intercommunal conflicts over land and cattle – have led to sustained poverty and persistent humanitarian and protection needs in the country. As a result, the population is experiencing ongoing insecurity and violence, displacement, sparse basic services, disease outbreaks, climate shocks, economic instability and insecure access to food, livelihoods, health care and education.

Human rights abuse is widespread, including abuse against children and adolescents. They are at high risk of exposure to harmful coping mechanisms, such as survival sex among girls, child marriage, and recruitment of boys in armed groups and crime, and many children are separated from their families. Given the complex humanitarian context, they continue to be left behind, with their safety, health, well-being and access to basic services compromised or denied.

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The Adolescent Kit for Expression and Innovation has in South Sudan been targeted towards the 10-18-year-old adolescents (but also youth older than 18), and within this age group towards adolescents associated with armed forces and groups, IDPs and vulnerable groups, with a focus on separated and unaccompanied adolescents, as well as adolescents at risk of and survivors of gender-based violence. It has also reached South Sudanese adolescents who are refugees in Sudan and are currently out of school and in alternative learning programmes.

The Kit provides a crucial entry point to strengthening UNICEF’s programmes with adolescent boys and girls especially to ensure the continuum of services from humanitarian to development settings. At a time when adolescents may feel frustrated and hopeless, building their capacity and providing them with meaningful engagement opportunities brings a sense of value and worth to their lives. It also allows them to be perceived as agents of change rather than as threats.

UNICEF South Sudan and partner organizations have implemented the Kit in three states, reaching 36,165 adolescents and youths. Through the Adolescent Kit, they have helped adolescents better cope with challenges, build their self-esteem, and protect themselves and others by expressing their views without violence or aggression and promoting social cohesion in their communities. By learning to identify their strengths and weaknesses and focusing on what makes them feel valued and confident, adolescents in the three States, Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity, have become positive role models in their schools, youth groups, community centers and child friendly spaces. In IDP camps in the Lakes and Jonglei states, UNICEF South Sudan and its implementing partners are benefitting from the Kit and its multidimensional approach to strengthen the way they provide psycho-social support, training and life skills development to conflict-affected adolescents.

The entry point for the Kit in South Sudan has been through UNICEF’s Child Protection programme, which has funded dedicated staff resources to ensure specialized service provision for adolescents and youth, including Kit activities and development of contextualized Training of Trainers modules on the Kit. More than 400 frontline workers and youth facilitators have gone through child protection and psycho-social support training where activities were planned using tools from the Kit. However, due to turnover of staff in South Sudan, limited capacity of grass roots organizations and the need for contextualization, regular capacity development is necessary to ensure targeted programmes for adolescents and youth.

Another entry point for the Kit has been through UNICEF’s Education programme, where it has been used for youth activities. It has been implemented in schools, youth groups, community centers and child friendly spaces.

UNICEF South Sudan continues to expand, contextualize and integrate the Kit in its overall programming to strengthen the work with and for South Sudanese adolescents and youth.