South Sudan refugees

Bullets, fear and hunger

One family’s tragic escape from South Sudan danger.

By Action Against Hunger

Aug 7 2014

Action Against Hunger is supporting refugees who have fled fighting are now living in difficult conditions in neighbouring Ethiopia.

When shooting began in her home city of Malakal, in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, Nyabuok Gay Kueth grabbed five of her eight children and started running.
Bullets rained down on them as they fled, killing others as they tried to escape. But the family kept running.  When they finally reached Burbiey transit camp, near the Ethiopia border, they stayed for two days before moving to Leitchor refugee camp.
The family’s exhausting journey to Ethiopia, which began in January 2014, was by no means unusual. A few months ago, about 5,000 people were fleeing South Sudan for Ethiopia daily.
Riek Machar fighters located in one of the few trees along the banks of the Baro river, which forms a natural border between the two countries, controlled the flow of refugees joining Ethiopia by boat.

Now, between 200 and 500 people reportedly reach Burbiey transit camp each day – where women and children wait anxiously, living in cramped conditions among mud puddles and flies.

Nyabuok cannot bring herself to tell the story of her family’s perilous escape – she simply points to the large white sack of wheat – one month’s ration - provided to her by Ethiopia’s Government. She had to sell part of it to pay for medicine for her young son, just months old.
He sleeps on a piece of carpet. A small earth-red strap around his tiny ankle indicates that he is now being treated by Action Against Hunger for severe acute malnourishment – the most deadly form of malnutrition.

1.5 million people have fled their homes in search of safety

Conflict in South Sudan, which began in December 2013, has forced 1.5 million people to flee their homes in search of safety. More than 400,000 of them have crossed the border, becoming refugees in neighbouring countries. Not only are they starting their lives over, but they are starting with few resources, if any at all.
In Ethiopia, there are more than 160,000 South Sudanese refugees and at least 47,000 live in the Leitchor refugee camp, in the west of the country.

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Photo credits:  © Agnès Varraine Leca