10 April 2024 - South Sudan

STAFF ACCOUNT - “My grandmother died in transit; the other passengers asked the driver to drop us off because they didn’t want to travel with a dead body.”

Monica at the transit centre in South Sudan

Monica* is a 25-year-old woman from a family of eight, who was born in South Sudan but fled to Sudan in 2013 when war broke out in her home country. Her family spent the last decade living in Khartoum, until 2023, when war broke out in Sudan and the family were forced to flee again.  She barely made it in safety to the Renk border in South Sudan. Monica tragically lost her grandmother during the perilous journey. 

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This is her testimony about her journey out of Sudan:

"I was in my final year of university in Khartoum when war broke out last April, shattering my dream of becoming a nurse. When the fighting started, our family of eight including my five brothers, three sisters, my grandmother and my mother hurriedly fled towards the South Sudan border.

The journey was long and full of danger. Along the way our car was ambushed by armed men who robbed us of our belongings. A different group of armed men also threatened some of the girls and women in our group, saying they would take them as their wives if they did not give up their valuables like jewels, wrist watches and mobile phones. A soldier almost took me as a wife, forcing my family to give him all our phones and belongings to set me free. It was terrifying.

During the journey my grandmother fell ill. Rapidly her situation started to deteriorate. At first we thought she had malaria, but we did not know the cause of her illnessThe journey was very long and after four days of falling sick my grandmother died. The other passengers expressed discomfort about travelling with a dead body so they asked the driver to drop us off. My mother had to leave the group to go and bury my grandmother as my younger siblings and I continued with the journey to Joda. It was my lowest moment of the journey to see my mother getting out of the car to go bury her mother. At that moment I did not know if we would get to the border. Luckily, we made it and my mother joined us at the Joda border point four days later.  

We have been displaced by war twice and my education has been put on hold twice. Sadly, both conflicts started at a critical time in my education, derailing my dreams. In 2013 when war broke out in South Sudan, I was sitting for my final primary school education, so I wasn’t able to move to the next level. At the height of that conflict, my family fled to Khartoum with the hopes of restarting our lives. My father and mother worked as casual laborers in the local market, barely earning enough to send me and my siblings back to school. I consider myself lucky to have had the chance to return to school and sit the secondary school final exams in 2020.

I am glad we made it to the Renk transit centre, about 70 kms from the border, after weeks of travelling from Khartoum. My family is back to South Sudan, and I started working with Save the Children at the transit centre in Renk as a child protection worker in August 2023. More than a 1,000 people fleeing from the war in Sudan are arriving daily in the transit centre.

Monica*(25), and other Save the Children's case worker in South Sudan

Monica*(25), and other Save the Children's case worker in South Sudan. Joel Bebe/ Save the Children

It pains me to see children arriving without parents or family members at the border, but I find joy in being part of the Save the Children team working to reunite them with their families and make them laugh and play. The transit centre has been my second home and seeing these children and their parents smile brings me joy.

My job is to run singing, dancing, and other fun activities for children at the child friendly spaces Save the Children run in the transit centres. Some of the children arrive here in total shock. They are totally stressed. They don’t want to talk and don’t want to mix with other children. They have seen things along the way that they just can’t understand and you just can’t imagine. Some of the children draw pictures of guns and shooting and of helicopters.

I am still hopeful of achieving my dream of becoming a nurse and I continue to take short courses to bring it closer to reality. Also, by working for Save the Children, I am able to provide for my family's needs while also supporting my siblings' education. I've always enjoyed working with children and I am excited to embark on this new journey with Save the Children to reach out to even more children. I want to continue sharing my story in order to inspire and empower more children, particularly girls."

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