South Sudan: Five Years, Five Voices
On 9 July, South Sudan commemorated five years since its independence – although without elaborate celebrations. Five years ago, the world’s newest nation was born with hope. Now largely forgotten, South Sudan’s independence has been plagued by violence and suffering.
The UN estimates more than 2.3 million people – one in every five people in South Sudan – have been forced to flee their homes since the conflict began. More than half of those affected are children. Nearly 5 million people are at risk of facing severe food shortages, and food prices in some areas have risen to 150% above average. Malnutrition rates for children are at serious levels in most of the country as families struggle to afford or find food. We are working to provide food for families and children, Child Friendly Spaces, and clean water supply.
We spoke to children and parents to find out how the last years have shaped the country and the lives of its people.
Adakien, a mother
My country hasn’t made great advances in the last five years. Insecurity remains to be the biggest issue. While my husband is still in Unity, our home state, I have fled the fighting with the kids. I don’t know if my husband is still alive and I have no means of contacting him. We left with nothing and we still don’t have anything. I can barely provide food for my children, and I can’t buy them clothes at all.
My children have never been to school and they live in constant fear, as we have moved from camp to camp over the past two years. We never knew when and where fighting might break out again. World Vision has provided a water pump and sent us flour to make bread. Life is tough and I fear for my children’s life.
We just have bread, and besides that, we eat leaves. There is nothing else. I have seen suffering and fighting, but I am still proud: We have our own country and I wouldn’t want to change this for anything.
Ayen, 8 years old
It was dark and I was asleep when the fighting broke out in my village a few years ago. There were lights everywhere and I could hear gunshots. My family ran in different directions; that’s all I remember. I hid all night and in the morning, I wasn’t able to find my family anymore. I was scared and I cried. I didn’t know what had happened.
My aunt took me with her and we left my state by lorry. I was living in a camp for several weeks, until a few workers from World Vision came here. They got our names and information, and several days later, they brought my mother here. It was the happiest day since our escape.
Kai, 9 years old
I was sleeping when the fighting broke out in my village. My mum woke us up and told us we needed to get dressed. I heard the shooting of guns; it was very close. We ran from our house but my father and grandmother were hit.
We had to keep running, but they didn’t come with us. They died. I’m very sad. Three of my brothers and two sisters are still missing as well. After we ran away, we have never found them. Maybe they are in a different camp, but I don’t know. We had fled many more times. Whenever fighting broke out, we ran away again. I hope we are safe now.
I used to work so that we could have food, but now we receive help and I don’t have to work for flour to make bread anymore. Life is not easy. I don’t want to run anymore.
Djok, 10 years old
I love playing football, and I made the one I play with myself. I took several plastic bags and some rope and put it together. When I was living in South Sudan, my dad brought me a football one day. I was so happy and I played with it every day. We had to leave South Sudan after my dad was killed.
Many soldiers came with guns and bullets, so I ran away with my mum and my brother. We walked for many days and later took a bus. We now live in Uganda and I go to school here. The school is for refugees and it’s in my language Dinka. It’s actually like living in South Sudan, except for that it is safe. Everyone in this village is from my country and many want to go back one day.
John, 14 years old
Like thousands of others, I made the long journey across my country by foot with my three siblings, only occasionally catching a ride in a truck. It has been a treacherous trek. I didn’t have shoes and we barely had any food or water. Suddenly, I become responsible to bring my three younger siblings to safety.
I loved my home village and my parents. Life was good. Today, I am raising my two brothers and sister. I am their mother and their father, and I take care of them every day. Life is very hard. I think of my dad a lot, because I am now in his position. I’m 14, but I’m the head of the household. One day, I hope there will be peace.