South Sudan

On the run from the gun in South Sudan

Source
Posted
Originally published
Origin
View original

It was three hours before Jenifer and her mum felt they were out of immediate danger and could stop running.

But although the sound of the gunfire on the streets of the South Sudanese capital Juba had been left behind, the fear of the men who had been responsible for it hadn’t.

Jenifer and her mum are among more than a million South Sudanese who’ve fled their homes due to a conflict between forces loyal to President Salva Kirr, who belongs to the Dinka ethnic group, and former Deputy President Riek Machar, who belongs to the Lou Nuer.

Jenifer’s fear-fuelled journey of escape was well justified. Along the way she saw many bodies by the side of the road and hundreds of people fleeing for their lives.

On the brink

Over recent months, a surge in violence between ethnic groups has brought South Sudan to the brink of disaster and has left tens of thousands of its citizens endangered and vulnerable. Around 923,000 have been made homeless within South Sudan and 293,000 others have become refugees in neighbouring countries.

The UN says 3 million people - a third of South Sudan’s population - are experiencing emergency levels of food shortages and has warned this may increase to 7 million by August.

As such needs grow, Tearfund is providing aid and Jenifer, 22, and her mum are among those receiving it.

They’ve been given seeds and tools to grow food, along with 12,000 other displaced people who are living in the community of Katigiri.

Since December, they’ve been taken in by locals who’ve given them shelter, shared the little they have and helped them use the seeds and tools. Jenifer said, ‘We consider ourselves very lucky because the host community love us.’

Memories

With Tearfund’s help of the seeds and tools, Jenifer will be able to feed herself over the coming months as she plants beans, maize and a local staple crop.

Although farming the land is something new to Jenifer, hard work and standing on her own two feet isn’t. Five months ago, she was a thriving city-based entrepreneur running a tea-selling business which was supporting herself and her mother.

Sadly exposure to conflict is nothing new either. Like many she spent her childhood in Sudan, growing up during what was Africa’s longest war and lost her father during the fighting. Those awful memories haven’t gone away and the latest fighting will only reinforce them.

But there is hope as both sides of the five-month conflict have recently signed a ceasefire.