Seventeen and alone in South Sudan

Imagine being just a teenager and having to leave everything you’ve ever known behind. Fleeing violence in your home town, you and your family walk for days to find food, water and a place to stay. Now, imagine doing that with your 4-month-old in your arms.

Arual and her baby.
17-year-old Arual and her 4-month-old son arrived in South Sudan with nothing but some baby clothes.

Arual told us her story as she arrived in Gogrial, an area of South Sudan where World Concern is distributing emergency rations to refugees and displaced families. It illustrates the extreme challenges faced by those who fled recent violence in Abyei.

I was in Khartoum but joined my mother with my brother and a sister in Abyei last year. My dad died a long time ago, so grew up with my mother who took care of us until she first came to the south leaving me in Khartoum. I was studying and had completed primary grade eight, and thus had to join our family in Abyei. It was there that I got married to an irresponsible man, but had to return home where I gave birth to my son named Chol.

It was May 19 when the incident intensified and thus we had to move out on foot just carrying with me a small bag containing some clothes for my baby boy. In the process, we were separated from our mother and I had to take care of my brother and sister. We moved for four days without food but only water and wild fruits, which made less breast milk for my baby. After four days we found a truck which was coming to Kuajok and we begged the driver who had mercy and gave us a lift to a place allocated for returnees from Khartoum.

We spent four days sharing food with others who had arrived earlier and received food and other items. On the fifth day, a returnee from Khartoum who happened to be our neighbor pitied my situation and my baby and took me and my sister and brother to his home where we are now living.

We have not heard anything about my mother, whether she is still alive or dead. Had it not been for this good person, I would not know how to feed these two children.

While the circumstances of each person’s story differ, they all tell of civilians caught in the crossfire of fighting armies. Panic, fear and loss are common threads throughout their stories.

We’re providing a month’s worth of food for people arriving in the areas where we work, and coordinating with other organizations to distribute cooking supplies, blankets and other necessities. But the strain on host communities is tremendous. They struggle on a good day to survive – they’re just not set up for a massive influx of people who are arriving with nothing.

Read more about how we’re helping feed displaced families in South Sudan.

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Cathy Herholdt

Cathy Herholdt is World Concern's Marketing and Communications Director. With a background in journalism, Cathy honed her writing skills as a newspaper editor and now enjoys sharing the inspiring stories of those World Concern serves. She has served with World Concern since 2010.

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