A Single Mother’s Struggle For Survival In South Sudan

PATHAI, South Sudan– The remoteness of Cuaca’s new home makes it a difficult place to raise her three children. There are no roads, markets, hospitals or schools. Two of the four wells in the village are broken, while the population that depends on this water has doubled.

Forced to flee violence and struggling to feed her three children, a woman in South Sudan is one of thousands to get help from a UNICEF/WFP Rapid Response Mission – and one of millions still trying desperately to survive.

A Single Mother's Struggle For Survival In South Sudan
A Single Mother’s Struggle For Survival In South Sudan © UNICEF

After a turmoil broke out in their hometown of Bor, Cuaca and her daughters – 4-year-old Mawiek, 2-year-old Nyawech and baby Nyadieng – decided to travel on foot for 10 days to reach Pathai, in Jonglei state, with few belongings other than the clothes on their backs. During the journey, baby Nyawech was tucked into a Moses basket positioned skillfully on her mother’s head. Each night, the family slept under the stars with others who had run for their lives.

“I fled because I am afraid of guns and afraid to be shot and killed,” says Cuaca, an elegant woman of 22 years who is waiting in line to register with UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP), who have arrived here by helicopter with life-saving supplies and services, the first humanitarian aid in nine months.

There are over 2 million people in South Sudan are affected by hunger crisis. The health of children from the displaced population as well as from the host community quickly deteriorated, putting thousands of lives at risk.

How people survived for so long with nothing? Cuaca said:

“We are eating leaves off the trees.”

As she unfolds her story, her youngest child chews on grass, and Cuaca stops to explain.

“She is hungry.”

Since violence struck the country in December last year, the large population of South Sudan’s 1.4 million internally displaced people have fled to remote locations – taking refuge in the bush, on river islands or in far-flung villages. For months on end, they have survived against the odds, desperately waiting for peace and a return to their normal life.

The joint UNICEF and WFP Rapid Response Missions, kindly supported by donations from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), the Government of Japan and the IKEA Foundation, have reached more than half a million people by air in remote areas, including 100,000 children under 5, with life-saving services and supplies.

H/T: Kate Donovan