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Sudanese refugees at a water point in Gorom refugee settlement in South Sudan on December 7 2023.

Sudanese refugees struggle to cope with life in South Sudan after fleeing conflict

Thousands of Sudanese refugees are struggling to rebuild their shattered livelihoods after fleeing deadly fighting back home to neighboring South Sudan.

Adib Al-Amin Adam Hussein, a 26-year-old Sudanese refugee in Gorom refugee settlement located 25 km west of Juba, the capital of South Sudan, said he fled fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Omdurman with nothing and arrived in South Sudan in June 2023.

Adam is one of the few 7000 Sudanese refugees who have found work, as he runs a small shop selling all types of home made goods to feed six of his brothers and relatives he fled with to South Sudan.

“We came because the situation was so bad, we lost everything, houses, and properties and even close relatives but we hope God will compensate, with support from some of my brothers I have a small shop but if I get support from any humanitarian organization or government I can do more than this,” he told Juba Echo in Gorom refugee settlement last week.

Prior to outbreak of fighting on April 15, Adam said he owned houses, cars and shops but he has since lost some of these things due to war.

“I have witnessed several deaths because we were staying near the military’s engineering corps and the artillery exchange of fire was so heavy,” said Adam.

He said that despite nearly escaping death by a whisker, he is struggling like other refugees to take care of his six family members with his daily earnings from his business. Adam makes daily profit from his small of about 11,000 South Sudanese Pounds (10 U.S dollars).

“I have a plan to develop my family members but life in the camp is difficult, it is not possible to move around as I expected, I have a family of 6 people and earning 10 dollars daily it is difficult to cater for the family, if the war stops in Sudan I hope to return immediately, the war is not likely to continue for a longer period and we expect peace to return so that we return home,” said Adam.

However, Adam remains grateful to the South Sudan government for it’s welcoming policy for refugees which has enabled them to access resources such as land, education and other services.

He noted that they still face challenges of access to safe drinking water, food and proper health care in Gorom refugee settlement, despite the support being provided by the South Sudan government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Sudanese refugee children in Gorom Refugee settlement in South Sudan.

“We have a problem of clean drinking water, health services and education, some of us want to advance our education, we want the international community to assist us on these things,” said Adam.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recently said that over 400,000 people have crossed into South Sudan since the start of fighting in April 15 this year.

OCHA noted that 88 percent of these people are South Sudanese returnees and 12 percent Sudanese refugees.

Mohamed Abdurahman, 17, fled deadly fighting in his home town of El Fasher in North Darfur region of Sudan and arrived in May in South Sudan.

“I never came here for work, I was forced by war to be here, I am now working in a bakery, I have faced many difficulties, the situation in Sudan had become unsafe,” said Abdurahman who  had been pursuing his education in Buruj secondary school in his home city of El Fasher.

Abdurahman who was separated from his parents during the outbreak of war, operates a bakery in Gorom refugee settlement where he employs two workers.

“I am separated from my parents; my mother was not in El-Fasher when the war erupted,” he said.

Abdurahman lost his brother after he was shot while the two were sited outside their home in El Fasher city.

He said he fled to the Sudanese town of Kosti without anything, adding that a Good Samaritan helped him to cross to the Joda border crossing point near Renk town of South Sudan’s Upper Nile state before heading to Juba.

Abdurahman said that he found life hard when he arrived at Gorom refugee settlement as he slept for one month on open ground due to lack of shelter.

“I was beaten by rain; it was raining on me for nearly a month,” he said.

Abdurahman said his situation started to improve after he got employed by another refugee who owned a bakery. He said that while at the bakery he worked only for food as payment for his labor.

“I have now established my bakery, we only erected shelter with mud and grass, the bread here is only for survival, it is feeding me and many others who have no food. The people here are happy but they have difficulties, the food is scarce, it is not enough and there is no money to buy food,” said Abdurahman who hopes for the war to end so that he can return to El Fasher.

Aisha Bala Adam Abdallah, 22, and a mother of one girl said prior to the outbreak of fighting she lived well with her family in Khartoum.

“Our lives were fine before fighting broke out in Khartoum but now it is troubling, with a lot of difficulties,” said Abdallah.

She lost both her parents and grandmother after their home was shelled in Khartoum.

Abdallah often worries a lot for the safety of her daughter who remains behind with some of her relatives in Khartoum, amid deadly fighting between the rival military factions nearly on daily basis.

“With the situation we face here, it is better we go back home, people are sleeping on empty stomachs, some people even prefer going back, people are not getting medical treatment,” she said.

Abdallah said that there are refugees suffering ailments such as cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure and Asthma and yet treatment for such conditions is missing in the only health facility in the refugee settlement.

“We expect the war to stop and we want Sudan to be in peace, we are not getting anything here, there is no treatment, there are no maternity services, you can stay the whole day without getting health services,” she said.

Dut Akol Kuol, director general for protection and refugees welfare in the South Sudan commission for refugees affairs (CRA), said Gorom refugee settlement is not only hosting Sudanese but other foreign nationalities such as the Anyuak from Ethiopia and a few people from Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We have other minorities that we cannot really count, these are the people who had problems in other camps and we transferred them to Gorom,” said Kuol.

He said that they are continuing to register more Sudanese refugees who are arriving at particularly Gorom refugee settlement, adding that some other Sudanese are living in Juba as urban refugees who are not eligible for services such as relief food but only accorded protection.

Kuol said they also plan to relocate all Sudanese refugees to Aweil town of Northern Bahr El Ghazal state near Sudan.

“The Gorom refugee camp is very close to the capital, they are supposed to be a little bit far,  in fact they have told us to relocate that camp and we don’t have money to do that but in the long run the Sudanese refugees are going to be transferred to Aweil, that is where we now have established a camp for Sudanese,” he said.

Kuol said that Sudanese who wish to remain in Juba will join other nationalities that are registered as urban refugees.

“It is not only the Sudanese but we have many nationalities staying in Juba as urban refugees. The urban refugees are different from the camp refugees because we only give them protection that is registration and documentation, but they are not provided food so you find them doing business,” he said.

Kuol admitted that some of the Sudanese refugees arrived with diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure which has become difficult to treat at the health facility in Gorom.

“Those cases were not many at the beginning. I know there is a big challenge but there is going to be an improvement next year,” he said.

Kuol said that the World Food Programme (WFP) due to funding shortfall is providing refugees food ration that cannot last for longer period.

“Food which is supposed to last for 15 days, the WFP wants it to last for 30 days,” said Kuol.

He said initially Gorom refugee settlement was designed to accommodate about 3,000 people, adding the number has increased of recent to more than 10,000.

“The facilities which are there are not enough but we have provided more than three boreholes to add to the existing water points,” said Kuol.

The presence of refugees in Gorom has helped transform the once empty and sleepy rural area with several shops, restaurants and other commercial activities springing up.

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