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When a child becomes a parent

As Sarah, 16, and her siblings fled South Sudan in a desperate search for safety, they took comfort in one thing: their mother would keep them safe. And throughout a perilous journey, that’s what Sarah’s mother did, even if sleep, food and water were scarce.

“It was terrible - we could only sleep in the bush. What we were eating was wild grass. There was not enough water. We only depended on the water we collected from different puddles around there.” recalls Sarah.

But despite the danger, Sarah’s mother succeeded in bringing her five children to safety. “She was a really good mum to me. When there was need for anything here, she was the one who went for it.” said Sarah.

Unfortunately, that same motherly devotion also led to a tragic end.

 Gone gathering firewood outside the camp, both Sarah’s mother and sister were killed.


Now the responsibility of caring for baby Mimi, 5-year-old Henry and 3-year-old Rose would fall entirely on Sarah’s frail shoulders. “It is tough but I have no choice. I am the one to take care of them. I will look after their food. I will look after where they will sleep and get them to shower.” promised Sarah.

“It is tough but I have no choice. I am the one to take care of them.”

Just in the Nguenyyiel refugee camp, where Sarah lives, more than 1,600 families are headed by children. While they may be resilient, they need your support.

“There are a lot of things that we are missing. The milk for the toddler. We don’t have firewood and we don’t have oil to cook our food.” said Sarah.

Burdened by grief and living in harsh conditions in a foreign land, ill-equipped children like Sarah are called upon to be both father and mother to even younger children also devastated by sorrow.


Will you help them?



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.