Alone and fleeing violence in South Sudan: The difficult journey being made by young children

تم النشر: 27 مارس 2014 7:04 CET

Susan Onyango, IFRC

Children often suffer the most in situations of conflict because they are too young to protect themselves from the devastating effects of violence. Unlucky ones end up separated from their parents and guardians and have no one to turn to for help. Many South Sudanese children have suffered this fate, finding themselves enduring the long journey, replete with uncertainty and difficulties, alone, as they escape danger at home. 

“The Red Cross identifies unaccompanied minors when refugees enter a country. With no facilities available to house these children, younger ones are placed in the care of foster families while efforts are put in place to trace their parents or relatives,” said Akasa Adiges, the tracing focal person at the Adjumani branch of Uganda Red Cross Society. “We are sometimes successful in our attempts to reunite families, but in some cases not. We may be lucky enough to find a relative of the children. If not we place them under the care of a foster family.”

Tabitha Yar Ajieth, 26, a married mother of one has been in a refugee camp in northern Uganda since December 2013. Her husband has since returned home to South Sudan while she looks after three of her cousins who are between the ages of three and six.

“When fighting broke out, my young cousins were at home alone. They followed the crowds of people fleeing to safety, not knowing where they were going,” said Tabitha. “A man found them and looked after them throughout the journey until they got to Uganda. He handed them over to me because he knew me from back home and was aware that they are my cousins.”

The food rations Tabitha receives are not enough for her and her cousins as they are yet to be registered. They were lucky to get an extra set of clothes. Despite the tough conditions in the camp, she is happy to look after the children.

Many refugees from South Sudan are not content to simply accept assistance from organizations like the Red Cross. They want to determine their own future and are coming up with ideas on how to make that happen. Next week on, we will visit with Philip Alier Achiek, a father of four, who wants to create a co-op with his fellow refugees to ensure their families are well cared for.