Story by Lydia Wamala
My name is Michael Mingol Thon. I was born in Werkok village in Bor county, Jonglei state, in what is now South Sudan, in 1984.
Before leaving South Sudan, I was working at a Government hospital in Bor town as a nursing assistant. These days, I am the chairman of Ayilo refugee village in the Adjumani refugee settlement in northwest Uganda.
“Soldiers were shooting people and our neighbours were fleeing.”
My family and I left South Sudan on 19 December 2013, a day after fighting broke out in Bor county. I came with 11 family members including my wife, Ayen Anyang Alier, and my four children — Mach, Chol, Mangol and Abuk aged between four and eight.
We left Jonglei because there was violence. Soldiers were shooting people and our neighbours were fleeing and running away. It was not safe to stay. I didn’t even have time to give notice at the hospital that I was leaving. We took a decision to move in just a day and then departed in the night.
One of my children, 1-year-old Alier, was killed as we left Bor town. He was shot while being carried in my wife’s arms, and my uncle was killed in the same attack.
We used to own livestock but had to leave them behind. We had goats and cattle. All we could carry was a mosquito net, some clothes, a blanket, money and food. We also packed some sorghum and beans as we needed to eat on the way.
“I pleaded with a truck owner to help us.”
We walked from Bor town to the River Nile, crossed it by boat and settled on its bank in the neighbouring state. We stayed there for ten days as we couldn’t move immediately — we needed to monitor the routes and asked people if it was safe to move.
When we ran out of food on the river bank, we had to buy some fish from local people. Eventually we got onto an open truck which took us south to the capital, Juba. I barely had any money by then and I pleaded with a truck owner to help us and take us anyway.
It took us two days to reach Juba and all the while we were living in fear because there was fighting throughout much of South Sudan.
I remember the sun hitting us hard on the truck. We had no water and no food. From Juba, we travelled on foot through to Nimule, then up to the Elegu border post in Uganda. We arrived in Uganda a month after departing Bor town.
“We have access to health care and we receive food.”
We arrived late in the evening and we were received well by UNHCR and the Lutheran World Federation. There was food provided by the World Food Programme. This gave us a soft landing.
We like it here in Uganda. We are safe, there is no war, our children go to school, we have access to health care and we receive food.
The food is very important. It helps us to manage our home. We receive it in time and there is a ration for each family member. We have enough for morning and evening meals. The children especially like the beans.
I would have liked to finish my nursing studies but I don’t see any such opportunity in the near future. The health centres here say that I lack the minimum qualifications and so I cannot work in Uganda.
But I am very keen on farming and cultivating maize and vegetables. I would like to farm on a large scale and even take food to the market. It would be nice if we could form a group and market our grain together.
Learn more about the World Food Programme at wfp.org