Picking up the pieces in South Sudan 

Picking up the pieces in South Sudan

Young people like 17 year old Nyamach are bearing the brunt of continued violence in South Sudan. Photo: UNICEF, 2014, Pires
Young people like 17 year old Nyamach are bearing the brunt of continued violence in South Sudan. Photo: UNICEF, 2014, Pires

Nyamach was a  happy, high-achieving, girl who loved school and was top of her class. Now the 17-year-old from South Sudan is picking up the pieces of her life following the horrific series of events that she has experienced since violence broke out in her country last December.

Our journey to get here was very difficult. My family is big, I have my mother, five sisters and two brothers. I’m the oldest and need to help taking care of everyone. I miss going to school and being with my friends. Many of them died in Malakal,” she told us. 

Here is a makeshift tent in a site for those left homeless by the conflict near the Ethiopian border. The family’s journey took two months with little or no access to food or clean drinking water along the way.

Nyamach wipes tears from her eyes and takes a deep breath before telling us her story:

“Everything happened very quickly. The fighting started in the village and we heard so many gunshots it was difficult to talk. We just kept running. I got separated from my mother and my brothers after we saw our father being shot and falling on the ground.”

“All my sisters followed me.”

Tragically Nyamach’s father was killed in the incident in early February and the family fled towards the UN base for safety. While Nyamach was leading the family to the base, where the peacekeepers had opened the gates for them, she heard a familiar voice calling out. As she looked back, her seven-year-old sister Nyanhial was on the ground lifeless.

“I saw it was her and she was not moving. There were bullets coming everywhere so we couldn’t stop. We just kept running and had to leave her there. We managed to enter the gates and then I kept looking outside, trying to see where she was so I could go back later to pick her up.” 

Four days went by before the gates of the UN base were opened for families to look for their loved ones amongst the pile of dead bodies spread on the ground. Nyamach and her mother and brothers went together and were able to identify Nyanhial and bury her body.

“We couldn’t go as far as home to bury our father. I hope someone did it for us.”

In the midst of such a storm of violence, stories such as Nyamach’s are unfortunately all too common. To date, 22,930 children have been reached with critical child protection services supported by UNICEF and partners across South Sudan, including psychological support. But we need to reach so many more.

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