Civil Service Support Officers Making Difference in Gbudue State

Aug 1, 2017

A woman harvesting maize crop at a group farm in a village near Yambio supported by CSSOs extension specialists

Nearly two years ago, UNDP began deploying a number of highly professionalized civil service support specialists to Yambio, the capital city of the former Western Equatoria State - now renamed Gbudue State - to provide credible support to state government institutions as well as to community-based organizations.

There are currently 22 Civil Service Support Officers (CSSOs) in the area as part of the RSS/IGAD Regional Initiative for Capacity Enhancement, a project solely supported by the Kingdom of Norway and implemented by UNDP and the Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Human Resource Development. The CSSOs from Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia are “twinned” with South Sudanese civil servants to ensure the direct transfer of skills and on-the-job mentoring.

Local actors report fruitful efforts towards provision of infrastructural facilities, health services, agriculture, social welfare and community protection have led to improvements in basic services delivery in the state.

Catalyzing community-owned water supply

Michael Muikiria, from Kenya, is a Civil Engineer working closely with the State Ministry of Physical Infrastructure overseeing major construction works on roads, buildings, and water distribution points, while mentoring nine South Sudanese “twins”. Access to clean water is one of the biggest challenges in Yambio. To promote community health, Mr. Muikiria and his counterparts are working towards a system of easily accessible water supply that provides sufficient safe water to meet community needs. Through mentoring and planning, water supply has greatly improved over the period of time Mr. Muikiria and other CSSOs have served the community. At least 13,000 households are now able to fetch potable water within 20 meters from their homes. Women no longer walk long distances to fetch water. Meanwhile, health and hygiene have improved due to improved water testing procedures by the staff, gained through the mentorship offered by the CSSOs.

The CSSOs are currently preparing the community to take over ownership of the water supply system. According to Mr. Joseph Abrahama, a local community member, each household will pay 25 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) per month for the maintenance of the water system. He said the community has far garnered around 9,000 SSP into their collective bank account to fund the water supply system.

Modernizing agriculture techniques for higher yields

Transformation is happening in the agriculture sector in Gbudue State as a result of the added expertise of CSSOs deployed in the community, who are working to shift traditional methods of cultivation to modernized practices. In Gbudue State, which experiences up to nine months of rainfall per year, farmers tend to plant their crops only once per year. Likewise, local producers tend to plant their seeds by scattering them over the soil of their gardens indiscriminately, thereby minimizing the potential for higher yields.

Dr. Abera Tekelemariam, a CSSO from Ethiopia, has been advising his “twins” and the broader community on tactics to spur higher productivity. For example, the prolonged rainfall period is enough to enable farmers to plant crops three times in a single season if they are timed correctly.

“We’ve set up two demonstration sites to serve as a model for awareness building and a viable proof-based agricultural practice,” explained Dr. Tekelemariam.

Gaining specialized skills to improve community security

At the Yambio Children Transit Centre (CTC), CSSOs are training and mentoring staff on report writing, and how to deal with cases of child abductions, abandonment, and gender-based violence. The CSSOs are working closely with state authorities to undertake challenging social issues that can only be handled by highly trained teams. There are about 84 caseloads of rape, child molestations, and physical assaults processing at this time. The training and mentoring programme run by the CSSOs at both the Special Protection Unit (SPU) and CTC cover trauma management, basic life skills, and psychosocial research and support.

Ms. Veronica Anni, a social worker from South Sudan, says she and her colleagues have benefited immensely from the training they are receiving from the CSSOs.

“For the first time in the state, we received training on report writing, how to give support and manage child-friendly space, counseling, case reporting, and workshop facilitation,” said Ms. Anni.

There are currently 37 people being trained in community and economic empowerment skills at the CTC, which includes providing protection services to about 74 children born out of rape, 37 abductees, and 17 registered amputees.

“With the training we receive we can undertake our responsibilities very well, but we need partners to join us in providing counseling services,” said Ms. Faibe Alisam, a CTC social worker.

The high-level training given to the twins has also led to workforce migration. According to Ms. Monica Martin, also a South Sudanese social worker, “people are becoming more qualified and gaining valuable working experience that is making them marketable to join international INGOs for a much higher pay and benefits.” Some twins in the RSS/IGAD programme have also received promotions and moved to higher managerial positions.

Local government support

As the current tenure of the CSSOs is about to end, their two years of service in Gbudue State have made significant progress in the provision of quality service delivery.

Gbudue State Governor Hon. Daniel Badagbu views the impact of the RSS/IGAD Regional Initiative as a positive force in his community and says the CSSOs have done a “great job” in the state.

“As a result of their training and mentoring, we have seen a reduction in death cases of water-borne diseases due to improved water supply. We have also seen decline of child mortality rate due to improved midwifery and nursing skills as well as laboratory testing,” the Governor underlined.

Moving forward

Based on the registered impact of the project on the people and institutions across South Sudan, the project continues to receive letters from national and state level government institutions requesting extension of CSSOs’ contracts to continue enhancing the capacity of institutions for service delivery.