After surviving a dash for freedom, South Sudanese just happy to have home

Telling the Human Story, 14 April 2014

© UNHCR/L.F.Godinho
In a thatched hut she helped build, Nyakuor Duer prepares food for her four children at Kule refugee camp. She is among some 93,000 South Sudanese refugees who have fled to Ethiopia's western Gambella Regional State.

KULE REFUGEE CAMP, Ethiopia, April 14 (UNHCR) The ordinary act of cooking sorghum stew comes as a nearly revolutionary blessing for 25-year-old Nyakuor Duer after all she's survived. The South Sudanese woman trekked 22 days on foot, feeding four small children wild leaves and fruit plucked from trees along the way, just to find safety in next-door Ethiopia.

She and the children, ranging from a few months to 11 years, made it. Her husband, five brothers, her mother and stepmother did not. She has no idea what happened to them. Whether they are dead or alive.

"I would like to return to South Sudan," the young refugee woman says as she prepares lunch in the traditional round tukul hut she helped build. "But the war is going over there. Now I prefer living here in Ethiopia where my family has a home and can get water and food."

She was the first woman to arrive at this new camp near Gambella in western Ethiopia, already home to some 34,000, and one of some 93,000 South Sudanese who have streamed into Ethiopia since violence erupted in South Sudan last December. Unlike other countries in the region that have accepted nearly 300,000 refugees, Ethiopia has seen mostly women and children arriving, with few men.

Many, like her baby girl, Awili, arrive severely malnourished. After being moved to the newly-created Kule Camp managed by the UN refugee agency UNHCR and Ethiopia's national Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, Awili got emergency feeding to restore her health.

Earlier this month, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited both Kule Camp and the nearby Pagak border entry point, where hundreds of people cross daily from South Sudan to draw attention to the tragedy in South Sudan and the needs in the region. In Ethiopia, UNHCR has prioritized vulnerable groups, in particular children with severe acute malnutrition and their families, for relocation to the new camps. UNHCR and partners need to raise USD 102 million to provide for the basic needs of South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia.

These days Nyakuor's family gets food from UNHCR's sister agency the World Food Programme. The emergency tent she first got from UNHCR has now been replaced by a more familiar tukul, a traditional round shelter topped by the elephant grass she collected.

The family was able to move last week when UNHCR and shelter partner Norwegian Refugee Council began locating refugees to higher ground to protect them from flooding during the coming rainy season. Nyakuor was happy to move in with the cooking pots, spoons, forks and knives she had already received from UNHCR.

Not everything's perfect, she admits. "I'd like to see my tukul improved to cope with the rainy season," she says. Also on her wish list are some blankets to protect her children against colder nights.

But most of all she hopes her stay in Ethiopia will only be temporary. "I hope my family and I will be able to return to South Sudan," she says, preparing to ladle out the sorghum.

By Luiz Fernando Godinho, in Gambella, Ethiopia

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Down Through the Generations, Conflict Forces Flight in South Sudan

In what is now South Sudan, families have been fleeing fighting for generations since conflict first erupted there in 1955. The Sudan War ended in 1972, then flared up again in 1983 and dragged on for 22 years to the peace deal in 2005 that led to the south's independence from Sudan in 2011.

But the respite was shortlived. One year ago, fresh conflict broke out between government and opposition supporters in the world's newest country, forcing 1.9 million people in the nation of 11 million from their homes. Most - 1.4 million - ended up somewhere else within South Sudan. Now older people live in stick-and-tarpaulin huts with their children, and their children's children, all three generations - sometimes four - far from home due to yet more war.

The largest settlement for such families is near the town of Mingkaman in South Sudan's Lakes state, close to the central city of Bor. More than 100,000 internally displaced people live in the settlement, located a few hours boat ride up the Nile from the capital, Juba. Photographer Andrew McConnell recently visited Mingkaman to follow the daily life of six families and find out how the wars have affected them.

Down Through the Generations, Conflict Forces Flight in South Sudan

Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

In the three weeks since South Sudan erupted in violence, an estimated 200,000 South Sudanese have found themselves displaced within their own country. Some 57,000 have sought sanctuary at bases of UN peace-keepers across the country. These photos by UNHCR's Senior Regional Public Information Officer Kitty McKinsey give a glimpse of the daily life of the 14,000 displaced people inside the UN compound known locally as Tong Ping, near the airport in Juba, South Sudan's capital. Relief agencies, including UNHCR, are rallying to bring shelter, blankets and other aid items, but in the first days, displaced people had to fend for themselves. The compounds have taken on all the trappings of small towns, with markets, kiosks, garbage collection and public bathing facilities. Amazingly, children still manage to smile and organize their own games with the simplest of materials.

Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

Every month, thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia cross the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea to reach Yemen, fleeing drought, poverty, conflict or persecution. And although this year's numbers are, so far, lower than in 2012 - about 62,200 in the first 10 months compared to 88,533 for the same period last year - the Gulf of Aden remains one of the world's most travelled sea routes for irregular migration (asylum-seekers and migrants). UNHCR and its local partners monitor the coast to provide assistance to the new arrivals and transport them to reception centres. Those who make it to Yemen face many challenges and risks. The government regards Somalis as prima facie refugees and automatically grants them asylum, but other nationals such as the growing number of Ethiopians can face detention. Some of the Somalis make their own way to cities like Aden, but about 50 a day arrive at Kharaz Refugee Camp, which is located in the desert in southern Yemen. Photographer Jacob Zocherman recently visited the Yemen coast where arrivals land, and the camp where many end up.

East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

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South Sudan Crisis: One Year On

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Forty-five-year-old Gabriel fled South Sudan with his wife and children to find safety in the UN compound in Bor. But, in April 2014, his wife was killed when an armed mob forced their way in, and now he is a single father to five children, seeking a better life in Uganda.
Ethiopia: Far From Home Play video

Ethiopia: Far From Home

Nyabuka Lam arrived in Pagak, Ethiopia in September after escaping armed men who shot her three children and husband back in her home country, South Sudan. After walking for 15 days to reach the safety of Pagak, she is now finally on a path to recovery.