Feature story on South Sudan IDP situation

IDP family coping with life in Bor  

By Tamama Norbert Mansfield

Luel Atem Luel lay crouched, on a piece of tattered mattress, under a Neem tree, in the middle of the compound.  His wife, Riak Apuny Chok, sat nearby; facing in the opposite direction, her head covered, with a long scarf. The elderly couple seemed unaware of our presence, as we sought audience with Achol Dual Deng.

My colleague informed Achol about the purpose of our visit; arousing the curiosity of, Luel and Riak, who suddenly, became alert.

Riak removed her head scarf and coughed. “We ran here for safety, but life has become hard. We have no food and shelter” she said, breaking the silence.

The family fled to Bor in April, from South Sudan’s Twic East County, of Jonglei State.

“We are living in the home of a host family. Sometimes, IDPs who receive food, share with us” Riak added, as she stood up, and with a walking stick, found her way to a spot near the kitchen. Achol, their 18 year old daughter in-law, picked the mat, and followed her. “She is blind” Achol, said, as she laid down the mat.

Riak became blind 3 years ago. “I was a normal person, until a disease, whose name I don’t know, made me blind” said the soft spoken mother of 4 children.

Bor town is hosting over 27,000 IDPs with more than 2,000 people still living in the U.N Protection of Civilian site, said James Jok Alier, the County coordinator for the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC).

Several months after fierce fighting for control of the strategic town ceased; guns went silent, security improved, people started returning home, violent clashes and revenge attacks, resurfaced in Duk and Twic East Counties, forcing many to flee, to the islands in River Nile, Lakes state, and other places.

Returnees and IDPs fear to return to their areas of origin; at least for now, preferring to live in the town, with host families and relatives, in homes, where life is, equally, difficult.

“Our village is still unsafe” Riak continued, as Luel, who until then, followed the conversation from a distance, appeared. He peered into our faces, shook our hands and sat down on a mat, nearby. He didn’t speak a word.

The family depends mainly on a daughter who lives in Wua. Their 3 sons are unemployed.

Riak said they have not been registered; hence, don’t get food assistance, an issue; the RRC said can be sorted out, if the family reports to their Chief, for registration.

“When IDPs arrive in Bor, they first register with their Chief, who sends the names to our office” Alier explained.

The IDPs receive monthly food ration.

In August, the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) distributed Non-Food Items to 12,000 returnees, Mathew Deng Garang, NPA’s senior project officer/ Head of Sub-Office in Bor, said.

Over 41,000 people have returned, since May, according to Alier, adding that, the returnees receive a 3 months food ration, upon arrival. He said discussions are going on a standard package for returnees.

NPA in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) has, since February, distributed 7,100 metric tonnes of food to 320,795 IDPs in Central Equatorial State, Lakes State, Jonglei State and Upper Nile State.


Note: Tamama Norbert is the Information Officer of Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), based in Juba, South Sudan.

Email address: tamamam@npaid.org

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