In Joda, one of the bordering towns between Sudan and South Sudan, hundreds of displaced people arrive daily. Large numbers of people cross the border in search of a safe shelter or to return to their homes in South Sudan. The latter are the South Sudanese returnees and represent nearly all the people who pass through this border. Some have lived in Sudan for more than 30 years, others were refugees in Khartoum from the civil war in South Sudan, and others had been in Sudan for a short time when the violence broke out, like Nura*.
In mid-April, Nura underwent surgery in Khartoum, which is why she travelled north and stayed with relatives a few days before the war started. Some days later, violence broke out and she found herself stranded in the city, and unable to return home.
Now, as many others, she finds herself in Renk, a small town next to Joda along the border with Sudan, where a transit centre has been set up. Here, returnees are sheltered while waiting for humanitarian agencies to transfer them to their final destinations. The transit centre is becoming increasingly crowded, and resources are not enough to fulfil the needs of the growing number of people arriving.
Batika* lived in Khartoum for more than ten years. She used to work as a housekeeper in the Sudanese capital when the war started. As the violence began, life became too difficult to bear and the insecurity increased daily. However, it was not the bombs, bullets or hunger that triggered Batika and her family to leave. One close relative of hers had been sexually abused by a man in uniform. This episode occurred in the middle of the day, while she was returning home from the market.
Gender-based violence (GBV) was becoming an increasingly common threat, and she started to be extremely scared about it. For this reason, Batika and her family decided to pack their belongings and flee to South Sudan in search of shelter and safety.
Many are the families suffering the tragic effects of the war. Some have lost their homes, their belongings, their dreams, and have nowhere safe to go.
Kuaae* used to work as a pre-primary teacher in Khartoum. Originally from South Sudan, he spent more than 20 years in Sudan.
He was at school when the bombs started to fall. As a first step, he decided to shelter the children inside the school, waiting for the bombing to stop. After a few hours, as the danger did not cease, the parents came to pick up their children and take them out of the school. When all the students left, it was time for Kuaae to go and find his family.
They locked themselves at home for a few days waiting for the violence to end. “There were bombs falling over the city, with no clear target. They would fall randomly, so you never knew if the next one would hit you and your family”, Kuaae says.
“It was hard, especially for the children. Seeing them crying every day, was very difficult for me,” he explains. On the 24th of April, Kuaae and his family decided to take the children and flee Sudan. “We carried nothing with us! We had no way to bring food or any other items, since I was busy carrying the children.”
Kuaae is now a community leader in Renk. He supports humanitarian actors in allocating the needs of the community, in spreading messages and information among the families, and much more. Being a teacher endows him with a respected role in the community. Kuaae dreams that his children can go back to school, and that he can start teaching again. He is passionate about his job, and he feels he owes the students continuity in their education, since education “is the only weapon to fight violence and ignorance”.
Being stuck in the limbo of Renk is not easy. People are afraid that the arrival of the rainy season will bring diseases and new hygiene and health challenges. Food and water supplies are insufficient. Displaced people fear new violence and uncertainty about what will happen next. Overcrowding and limited resources only aggravate an already vulnerable situation, triggering tensions and conflicts among the displaced population itself.
People, like Kuaae and Nura, who do not have the financial means to provide their own transport are waiting for humanitarian actors to support them in their journey. However, the increasing instability in the country and the need for additional resources are delaying this process.
In collaboration with partners, JRS offers psychological first aid, safe spaces for children to draw and play, as well as basic physiotherapy services and distribution of non-food items for the most vulnerable cases. JRS has been present in South Sudan for years but has never operated in the border town of Renk before. This need arose because of JRS’ mission to accompany the most vulnerable and to intervene where it is most needed.
*name of fantasy to protect the identity of the person