News / Africa

South Sudanese Seek Refuge in Swamps

  • South Sudanese girls sit by a tent in a camp for displaced persons in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Tongping, Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 19, 2014. 
  • A South Sudanese woman uses her phone as she leans against a barbed wire in a camp for displaced persons in the UNMISS compound in Tongping, Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 19, 2014. 
  • A South Sudanese girl washes dishes in a camp for displaced persons in the UNMISS compound in Tongping, Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 19, 2014. 
  • South Sudanese girls collect their laundry from a barbed wire in a camp for displaced persons in the UNMISS compound in Tongping, Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 19, 2014. 
  • A South Sudanese woman sits in a tent in a camp for displaced persons in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Tongping, Juba, Feb. 19, 2014. 
  • South Sudanese women collect garbage in a camp for displaced persons in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Tongping in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 19, 2014. 
  • Shoes belonging to South Sudanese people displaced by the fighting wait to be cleaned in a camp for displaced persons in the UNMISS compound in Tongping, Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 19, 2014. 
South Sudanese Displaced by Violence
Hannah McNeish
Tens of thousands of people in South Sudan's Unity state have been displaced by fighting between government and rebel forces which has left countless dead and whole villages ransacked and razed. Many fled to the only refuge left: the swamps. There, people are living as castaways; scavenging for food, drinking filthy water and sleeping in the rough.
 
When hundreds of men came to the small village of Pathiet, shooting at random, 40-year-old Nayyiel Gatluok grabbed her six children and whatever she could carry and ran for the swamps. 
 
Around 60 people were killed in an attack in Panyjiar county February 7 -- some were shot dead at home or as they plunged themselves into the swampy water.
 
Gatluok and some 100 other people are now living in dire conditions on the nearest island to Nyal -- a few hours wade from her home. Thousands of others are living on similar bits of land.
 
With only one mosquito net and a bed she managed to carry on her head, her family is living on the hot, dusty island with no proper shelter. Food consists of whatever falls from the few palm trees or what they can unearth from the swamps.
 
“Life is bad,” she said. All she has for her children is dirty water, and their only food is the roots of water lilies and palm fruits.
 
But she and others are determined to stay here until they are sure that what they call government troops -- along with some police and armed youth from neighboring Lakes state -- do not return to unleash more violence.
 
Others have said they have nothing to go back to; soldiers looted and torched their homes and stole around 6,500 cows.
 
South Sudan became independent in 2011, six years after the end of a 20-year civil war with Sudan. But since late December, a power struggle between the country's leaders has widened to a new war that has divided the country's communities by ethnicity.
 
No one thought that a fight between President Salva Kiir, who comes from the Dinka ethnic group, and his former vice president Riek Machar, from the Nuer, would ever reach the neutral villages of Panyjiar county.
 
For the only permanent charity here, called Sign of Hope, providing medical care is increasingly difficult. The group's director, Klaus Stieglitz, said the dispensary was burned down in the fighting and getting supplies for all the wounded is expensive.
 
“The challenge we are facing at the moment is access to our clinic. Road transport at the moment is practically impossible so we have to use air transport means. That is quite costly. We were facing a situation where the stocks in our clinics were very low, so we had no other choice than to fly to this place called Nyal, even though practically speaking it is lying on the frontline at the moment,” said Stieglitz.
 
Simon Kuol, the county coordinator for the state-run Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, is especially concerned about disease and starvation in a county whose harvests were lost last year to floods and this year to violence.
 
“We are fearing that they will be suffering, as they don't have mosquito nets, they don't have food, they don't have everything. The ground is ended to us here.  We have no other place to go, so we must pray for God, so that he will come,” said Kuol.
 
Peace talks being held in Ethiopia have provided little reprieve from atrocities and tragedy sweeping silently through the villages.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid