“I still don’t understand how we stayed alive”

the journey of a mother and her 6 children to Sudan as they flee the conflict in South Sudan

Elisa Abu Garang is a mother of six, 3 girls and 3 boys from Gok Mashar in Northern Bahar locality, in the state of El Gazaar, South Sudan. Former itinerant tea seller, Elisa has heard no news of her husband who disappeared sometime in 2001 during the conflict and has since not returned. In June 2016 fled to the south of Sudan, following the violent outbreak of fighting between opposing factions involved in the South Sudanese conflict.

The journey of Elisa and her children to reach the Khor Omer camp in East Darfur, emulate the test of “I survived” in real time: “We had to flee toward the north by bus! The bus broke down after a few kilometers, and we had to continue the journey on foot, says Elisa Abou Garang. “I remember at one point we had to cross a river by boat, and continue again on foot. It took us twelve days to reach Khor Omer… twelve days that appeared like a life time with no food hardly any water and no help on the way… I will never forget this journey until the last day of my life. We suffered so much. I still can’t even understand how we managed to stay alive”.

Elisa A. Garang with some of her children in Khor Omer refugees camp.

When she finally arrived at Khor Omer camp, Elisa and her family were received by officers from the state level Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), and those from the Sudan Red Crescent. Elisa and her children were supported by relatives she found in the camp, before getting the food ration tickets as well as UNICEF supported Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) materials including jerry cans, cups, bowls and family hygiene kit (with soap, detergents, dish washing products, as well as napkins for babies).

In Khor Omer camp, her four younger children received care at the camp Health Center and the school: “My children received free health care in the health center including medical care. They were malnourished and sick and I was told that it was necessary to recondition them because they suffered too much from hunger, says Elisa. The older children have been registered in the camp school supported by UNICEF with teaching, learning and recreational materials as well as training of teachers, and I am so happy they have the opportunity to continue learning”.

Elisa (in red dress) cleaning the front of her family hut in Khor Omer Refugees camp. In the entrance, her first daughter.

Elisa tells the story of the camp with sadness, looking back at all she had lost due to the conflict back home. “Before seeking asylum in Sudan, I had a life; not one of luxury, but a life that allowed me to live decently, she says. It is different and difficult here and I am so truly appreciative of the support we receive from agencies such as UNICEF”.

Here in Khor Omer camp, we managed to get out of the camp and go to town to look around for opportunities; and we sometimes got them. We could occasionally find work in the surrounding lands and earn money to supplement the assistance provided humanitarian organizations. I however look forward to the day when the war will end in my country and we can go back home. Meanwhile I dedicate my time in making the best for my children”, Elisa concluded

Story & photos by Dismas Junior Biraronderwa, Communication Specialist, Media & External Relations


UNICEF is supporting South Sudanese Refugees in East Darfur thanks to the generous contribution from the Government of Germany.