Fleeing Fighting, Families Seek Refuge In South Sudan
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Published on 28 March 2012

Queen Idris waits for family rations to share with her children (Copyright:WFP/David Orr)

Conflict in Sudan's Nuba Mountains continues to drive refugees across the border into South Sudan. Though anxious about the future and often separated from family members, they can at least get some assistance to keep them going.

At Yida, only 16 kilometres south of the border with Sudan, the newly-arrived refugees find sanctuary from the fighting in Sudan’s legendary Nuba Mountains. There are new arrivals every day, some coming on foot, others by vehicle. They bring with them tales of bombing, dawn raids...and widespread hunger.

“Even if the planes don’t drop any bombs, we can still see them in the sky so people are afraid to work in their fields”, says Queen Idris, a young mother of three children who recently arrived from her home in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state. “Our village was attacked last year and people were killed. Fighting is never far away”.

As soon as Queen and her three children got the offer of a lift across the border, they took it. The road south was not safe to walk, says Queen who worked as a nurse in the Nuba Mountains.

Unaccompanied minors

Queen was one of more than 800 newly arrived refugees lining up for a distribution of WFP food rations – sorghum, lentils, vegetable oil and salt. Among those gathered on the same piece of open ground were some 200 unaccompanied minors.

“My father was a farmer but he was killed in an attack last year”, says Alawaia Ibrahim (14) who was among a group of school children brought over the border by their teacher a few months ago. “I’m very worried about my mother and my brothers who are still at home. When new people come here, they usually bring news about the villages that have been bombed. I hope my family comes soon”.

Pre-positioning food

Since last August, more than 16,000 Nuba have settled in Yida refugee camp with another 1,600 at a camp in nearby Pariang where children are able to attend the local school. Some refugees have been persuaded to move further south to a safer camp at Nyiel but, for now at least, most seem to prefer to stay where they are in Unity state’s remote border region – parched savannah in the dry season, lush and often water-logged grassland during the rains.

There are currently more than 105,000 Sudanese refugees in need of food assistance in South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile states. For the first few months of this year, WFP has been engaged in a massive operation to pre-position vital food stocks in remote locations ahead of the seasonal rains due in April.