June 20 is World Refugee Day, a day of awareness and renewed commitments to help people displaced by conflicts and disasters.
Our team recently traveled to South Sudan, where they met a family of four siblings, orphaned and displaced by war, having recently lost their mother. Read their story.
It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard a child say: “Our mother died because she ran too slow.”
I was in South Sudan where today, 2 million of 11 million people have been displaced by civil conflict.
The newest country in the world is also the most vulnerable in the world, displacing Somalia this year at the top of the list of most fragile.
11-year-old Abuk Deng Gop has no time to be fragile.
When the shooting started in their village, the oldest daughter in her family started running. “The bullets were everywhere,” she says. “The fighting was so intensive. I carried my little brother.”
But Abuk’s mother was sick that day. “She couldn’t run like the others,” says Abuk. A neighbor told the children the sad news. Their mother had been shot and killed.
Now there are only four people left in this family — all are children.
“We found out our father was killed in the war,” volunteers Mam, the oldest boy, tall and lanky at 9.
The conflict that started in December 2013 is complicated. Politics and ethnic tensions have boiled over, and the children are caught in a crossfire of death.
Driven from their village by shooting, the four children — Abuk; Mam; their sister Nyadeng, 6; and little brother Nyuol, 3 — went to a camp for internally displaced people in neighboring Warrap State.
“We spent 18 days coming to the camp,” says Abuk. “Life in the camp, compared to my previous life, was the worst. The feeding was poor — sometimes just one meal a day. There was no school. We used to go to school.”
From May through October, it rains buckets in South Sudan, so the children would huddle under the tents.
“They were hot, but when it rained, they flooded,” says Abuk. “My brothers and sisters cried at night. I became the mom.”
One day, Michael Angok, 26, a World Vision staff member, came to the camp to find them.
World Vision staff in South Sudan work like detectives to reunite children with family members. Michael had learned of the four orphans and had located their uncle.
Now they live with their uncle in Twic County, where World Vision works.
“Michael brought us,” says Abuk. “He is a nice guy.”
World Vision prepared the children’s uncle for his new charges by providing a reunification package of food and utensils. The children will soon receive school uniforms so they can go back to school.
“I want to go to school,” says Abuk. “I want to be a teacher.”
“I want to be a doctor to work with MSF [Médecins Sans Frontieres] or World Vision,” says Mam.
“I want to be a leader. If I become a leader, I will make peace so there is no war,” says 6-year-old Nyadeng.
Nyuol, sleeping near his sister, is too little to know what he wants to be when he grows up, but thanks to family reunification, he has a fighting chance to find out. He has two strong advocates by his side: World Vision and an older sister who loves him as a mother would.
World Vision is active in South Sudan, providing relief for people displaced from their homes like Abuk and her siblings. Join us and make a one-time donation.