By Chris Blackham, Samaritan’s Purse UK staff member
South Sudan is the newest country on earth, celebrating its independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011. Today refugee camps litter the northern border of the fledgling nation, causing nearly 200,000 men, women, and children to flee the bombing campaign inflicted on their homes and villages by the Government of Sudan.
A thin rope marks the boundary between Sudan and South Sudan, but the people on either side are united in the terror and desperation felt as a result of the bombings.
During the one-hour dirt road journey between the border and Yida refugee camp, I passed 78 people trying to escape the terror of the last 18 months.
One woman had walked for seven days with her six children, without any food whatsoever for the last two days, to reach Yida in the hope that her family will finally be safe. Not only from the bombs and the fighting, but from the debilitating malnutrition and disease that is ravishing those who have not yet made it out.
Once they reach Yida, they are greeted with food, clean water, healthcare, and a makeshift shelter they can call home. Samaritan’s Purse has been compassionately and relentlessly providing critical support for the refugees in Yida since the conflict began, letting the people know that God loves and cares for them. Wherever you look, you see blue tarpaulin with Samaritan’s Purse logos, sheltering traumatized families both from the blistering heat and the driving rain.
Despite the desperate situation these refugees find themselves in, one thing has struck me since being here. People are not crying out for a handout or for our sympathy. They are seeking help so that they can lift themselves out of poverty.
Even though the entire 67,000 population receives life-saving food rations every month, the refugees are crying out for seeds and other productive items so that they can grow their own food.
Despite over 13,000 primary school-age children having escaped to Yida with their lives, they are considering returning to their war-torn villages in search of education because they know it represents their future.
These accounts paint an amazing picture of the refugee population here. After enduring bombings, terror, starvation and death, they remain resolute in their determination to stand strong and to invest in the future of their children.
They are not charity cases. They are families, women, and children who after losing everything still have so much left to give and so much life left to live.