Sudan Conflict Forces South Sudanese Refugees to Return Home

Action Against Hunger is providing essential supplies – and hope – to returnees.

For 12-year-old Nyadat Pet, April 15 will always be remembered as a dark day in her life. It was the day her life turned upside down.

Nyadat was playing with friends near their homes on the outskirts of Khartoum, Sudan, when she heard gunfire and explosions. For the next two days, the bombings and gunfire became more frequent and closer to her neighborhood.

As the danger grew closer, her parents decided to seek refuge outside the capital. It’s not the first time the family had been displaced. They are originally from South Sudan, and fled the conflict there a decade ago for safety in Sudan.

Together with her three siblings and several neighbors, Nyadat and her family left their home in the early morning hours. They were near the outskirts of the city when Nyadat heard a huge bang – it was a bomb exploding nearby.

Screams and smoke filled the air, and Nyadat and her siblings lost contact with their parents in the resulting confusion. They lived under a tree for nine days, enduring frequent rain and scavenging for food. Her brother fell ill, and they could only hope he got better. They were later rescued by a caravan of South Sudanese people escaping the violence and taken Renk, a border town in South Sudan.

A government boat arrived a few days late to transport displaced people to their chosen destinations. Nyadak and her siblings boarded a boat bound for their family’s village. Sadly, upon reaching their home, they found themselves unrecognized and unknown by anyone in the area – the family had been away for ten years and no one recognized them. With nowhere to go, well-wishers directed them to Action Against Hunger support center for former refugees in New Fangak.

Nyadat registers with an Action Against Hunger staff member to enroll for a cash support program at a camp for returnees – people who had been refugees in Sudan but have come back to South Sudan.

Known as “returnees,” refugees who come home after years often face many challenges in rebuilding their lives. Since the outbreak of the conflict in Sudan, Fangak County in South Sudan has received an influx of returnees across its northern border, with most settling in New Fangak.

The village of New Fangak has been severely impacted by floods and conflicts, making it difficult for residents to make a living. With hundreds of returnees arriving each day, local resources have been overburdened, making resettlement challenging. Essential services such as healthcare, food, water, sanitation, and hygiene-related infrastructure have been stretched to their limits. As a result of inadequate services, limited food availability, and outbreaks of disease, malnutrition is rising.

Bol Gatkuoth, 40, de-weeds his rice paddy in his home beside the floods.
Peter Caton
Action Against Hunger, South Sudan
In South Sudan, floods have destroyed crops and made it more difficult to produce enough food for residents and returnees.

Action Against Hunger, through support from the EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid, stepped up to respond to these crises and support the local community and returnees with life-saving interventions. Our teams are distributing cash, providing hygiene supplies such as soap, buckets, plastic sheets, and water purification tablets, and building temporary latrines to reduce open defecation and prevent the spread of disease.

“Immediately when the conflict in Sudan started, we developed a crisis response plan for returnees coming back to South Sudan,” says Lorjock Riak, Program Manager for Action Against Hunger, South Sudan. “With this plan, we aim to provide long-term support to returnees. Our current focus, however, is on the immediate need to deliver humanitarian assistance.”

In New Fangak, Nyadak, her siblings, and thousands of other returnees and returnees have found temporary shelter.

Once at the camp in New Fangak, Nyadak and her siblings received temporary shelter and humanitarian assistance from Action Against Hunger. Her sick brother was transferred to the local health center run by Action Against Hunger for treatment and care.

As they wait to hear what happened to their parents, another family is helping to look after them. Nyadak received cash from Action Against Hunger to help buy essential supplies for her siblings.

“With the temporary shelter and unwavering support from Action Against Hunger, a renewed flame of hope burns within me, other returnees and refugees, even as Sudan, my homeland for the past 10 years, faces the devastating fires of conflict,” says Nyadat.

Despite all of the challenges from the last three months, Nyadak still has a radiant smile. She – along with the thousands of other returnees at Action Against Hunger’s shelter – are survivors, and still have a glimmer of hope for the future.


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