Chapter I: Escape


Everyone tells the same story in Malakal.

Nyabaled Anyong, a 55-year-old nurse: “They shot the patients, they killed them in their beds. Those who survived left, without their clothes or anything.”

In late 2013, a brutal civil war broke out in South Sudan, which had only become an independent nation in 2011 and is the youngest country in the world. With 150,000 inhabitants the city of Malakal is the second most important in the country, and experienced heavy fighting during the conflict. Within weeks, it was devastated by an onslaught of violence from government forces and the opposition.

 “I lost my son in the war,” says Lucia Daniel, a displaced mother. “He was hit by a stray bullet as we fled. That’s why I wear this black necklace”

During the conflict hospitals were destroyed, markets reduced to mountains of corrugated iron and asbestos, and schools abandoned. Tens of thousands of people fled—to the UN protection of civilians site in the city, towards the north along the Nile, or to other villages across the river. Still, they couldn’t escape the violence.

Veronica Ocham, 28: “After the fighting we crossed the river. Then there were helicopter attacks against the villages on this side. People hid. The children were hungry.”

As the conflict continued, families were torn apart again and again, by the constant need to escape from the never ending violence.

Teresa Hadia, 23: “We came to this village by boat, after the fighting in Malakal. Then we went to the village of Lul, near here, because the situation was better there. Then we came back here. My husband is far away.”

These are the voices of people who cannot leave South Sudan, voices unknown to the West, voices of struggling people, voices of a population battered by war, malaria, tuberculosis and malnutrition, yet determined to stay alive.