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Returnees are seen being briefed by officials in Rumaker payam of Aweil East County in Northern Bahr El Ghazal state.

South Sudanese count loses as they struggle to rebuild lives away from war-torn Sudan

Thousands of South Sudanese who fled conflict in neighboring Sudan are now counting loses as war continues to rage in Khartoum and other parts of the country.

Abuk Garang Dut, 30, fled with only clothes on her  from her home in Muglad suburb of Southern Kordofan state of Sudan when the conflict spread there.

She is among thousands of returnees with shattered hopes and dreams living in temporary shelters made of wood and stick in Rum-Aker Payam located in Aweil East County of Northern Bahr El Ghazal state near the border with Sudan.

“I have been experiencing nightmares since I arrived in South Sudan after witnessing the shooting to death of my brother’s wife in Southern Kordofan,” Garang told Juba Echo on Wednesday.

 Garang said that she is stressed because of the responsibility of taking care of her in-laws children has fallen on her.

She said that she is traumatized like many of the returnees who witnessed death and carnage along the treacherous journeys to arrive to safety in South Sudan.

Garang added that she left behind many of her possessions as she could not pack them due to fear amid heavy gunfire.

Starting new life in Rumaker payam has not been easy sailing as many returnees are sleeping in the open due to shortage of shelter provided by UN agencies.

 “We are living in the open under the trees and most of the children staying with us are suffering from pneumonia and are looking frail,” Garang said.

South Sudan is currently hosting more than 480,000 returnees including Sudanese refugees who fled conflict in Sudan since outbreak in April 2023. Over 85 percent of the people who arrived in South Sudan are returnees who had fled previous conflicts in South Sudan.

Dut Garang Bol, another returnee said that he survived being devoured by wild animals as he trekked in a dense forest in Sudan to arrive in Rumaker payam.’

 He said that most of the returnees are struggling to get jobs to start a new life in Northern Bhar El Ghazal state.

Bol said that they are not getting enough food ration and proper shelter due to the World Food Programme (WFP) having suspended food distribution due to funding shortfall.

Adut Garang Bol, who sits on the committee of leaders managing the day-to-day affairs of returnees, said that the current conditions they are living in are worse than they lived in when in Southern Kordofan.

Garang said that one of her relatives was shot dead in a dense forest by Misseriya pastoralists as they were crossing into South Sudan. She said that she saw her relative bleed to death without medical aid in a defense forest.

 “What is significant now is food as you now see we are camping in the open. Most of the children are sick because of the weather conditions and sleeping with open stomachs,” Adut said.

The Commissioner of Aweil East County Kerbino Thiep Tong promised the returnees during his recent visit to Rumaker payam that he would reach out to the state government and humanitarian agencies to support them.

“I am going to share your conditions with the state government as most of you are having no knowledge where you could go and stay. We will allocate land for you to cultivate as well,” Thiep said.

For his part, the Member of Parliament representing Aweil East County in the national legislative assembly, Agany Deng Kawac said that he plans to reach out to the national government to support the returnees in Rumaker payam.

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