Abducted as a child, returned an adult after 18 years

By Wossen Mulatu

 

GAMBELLA, Ethiopia,  25 May 2016 – Eighteen years after he was kidnapped as a child by raiders, Paul Tok*, 19, came home to his native village of Dima to a warm welcome.

In the long years of his captivity by the Murle tribesmen in neighbouring South Sudan, where he was attached to a local family, forced to learn the language and help raise their cattle and farm their land, he never forgot who he was.

His brother, five years older and taken with him, repeatedly told him that they were different. “We are Anuak, we will never be Murle.”

The Murle have long raided their neighbours for cattle and children. In the last decade, 50 children have been taken from the Anuak parts of Ethiopia in Gambella State in yearly raids.

Those raids, however, sprang to international prominence when the Murle launched a massive cross border operation against 13 Nuer villages in mid-April, killing more than 200 people and carting off 146 children and thousands of cattle.

As the Ethiopian Government works to release these children, the experience of others kidnapped by the Murle has come under renewed scrutiny.

Dawn raid and captivity

Paul Tok, 19, Ongogi Kebele, Jor woreda, Gambella region.
When Paul Tok, 19, returned to his own village in Dima, everyone was filled with joy and there was a big fiesta by the community. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Mersha

Paul and his older brother were kidnapped in 1997 in a violent attack on their village. His mother fought to keep her sons and was slashed with a knife that left her weak and she died of illness four years later. Her husband followed her into the grave two years afterwards following a prolonged period of depression.

Paul would only find out about his parents death on his return years later. He and his brother were taken to the village of Lelot in South Sudan and attached to a family who already had 10 other children and was put to work.

Paul said he never liked his life with the Murle.

“I didn’t like the food, the language and the fact that we didn’t wear any clothes,” he said. “Since the Murle take pride in having lots of cattle, they gave us a lot of milk. They also gave us blood from the oxen to drink but I never dared to try it.”

“They taught us to hunt wild animals and when we failed, they would tell us we were not man enough and beat us,” he recalled. They were also beaten when they refused to join the deadly cattle raid attacks against the Anuak. ”I never collaborated with them – how could I steal from my community?”

Paul and his brother were allowed to attend school and Paul studied up to 9th grade.

Escape and reunification

When fighting wracked South Sudan as rival tribes battled each other in a civil war during the past few years, Paul decided to join the flow of refugees into Ethiopia and make his way back to Dima.

“I told them my story in Anuak language when I was in the camp. They were so happy and they hid me and gave me food and clothing. My aunt was looking for me tirelessly and she heard about my return and came to take me,” he said with pride.

Though Paul is thrilled to be reunited with his family, he misses his brother who is still in South Sudan. “He is now in 11th grade in Juba and he wants to finish school. We would have come together. I don’t think he will waste a day to return after he finishes school,” Paul said.

Paul is now receiving lots of affection from his own community. Along with his aunt and relatives, he gets support from the woreda (district) including clothing and school materials and has now re-enrolled. He still lives in fear, however, that the Murle will come back and take him away. “They know me as their child and I will be considered a traitor if found,” he said.

There has been a steady increase in cross-border child abduction over the past decade. The civil war in South Sudan and the easy availability of weapons has exacerbated the rate of these abductions both in terms of the numbers of children abducted and adults killed each year.

Deng Chol, 5 years old boy from Nipnip Kebele (sub-district), with his mother
Deng Chol, 5 years old boy from Nipnip Kebele (sub-district), with his mother Nyapuk Kang at a temporary residence of abducted children © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Tesfaye

However, after the April 15 attack, the Ethiopian Government made a statement that the Ethiopian forces will follow the Murle armed men into their territories in South Sudan to rescue the abducted children.

UNICEF is working in close collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia and partners on a response plan which includes reintegration, psychological support, basic health care and nutrition services as well as providing items such as tents for their accommodation and clothing for each child.

UNICEF has called for the children’s swift and unconditional return.

“I hope they will stop abducting our children,” says Okew Owar, head of the Jor Woreda. “For the Murle, the more children they steal from us, the richer and powerful they become since children are sold and exchanged for cattle.”

After the reunification with his community, Paul wants to improve his Anuak since he has forgotten some words apart from what his brother taught him when they were children. He can now speak the Murle language fluently as well as a little Arabic.

“I would like to become a teacher and teach my community,” he said.

 

*Name of subject has been changed to protect privacy

 

Children do not start wars… We know that

By Sacha Westerbeek

The theme for this year’s Day of the African Child – Conflict & Crisis: Protecting Children’s Rights – is a pertinent one.

Visit to UNICEF supported Itang Special Woreda (District)
South Sudan refugee children play at a child – friendly space at Tierkidi camp in Gambela region of Ethiopia 9 June 2016 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

Conflict, fragility and insecurity are among the most significant development challenges of our time. Globally, more than 230 million children live in places fraught with conflict, fragility and instability.

UNICEF estimates that nearly 90 million children under the age of 7 have spent their entire lives in conflict zones. Children living in conflict are often exposed to extreme trauma, putting them at risk of living in a state of toxic stress, a condition that inhibits brain cell connections – with significant life-long consequences to their cognitive, social and physical development. In addition to the immediate physical threats that children in crises face, they are also at risk of deep-rooted emotional scars.

Conflict robs children of their safety, family and friends, play and routine. Yet these are all elements of childhood that give children the best possible chance of developing fully and learning effectively, enabling them to contribute to their economies and societies, and building strong and safe communities when they reach adulthood.

As in all humanitarian crises, children continue to bear the brunt of the impact. It is estimated that three out of 10 African children are living in conflict-affected areas.

Children do not start wars…. We know that. –  Yet they are most vulnerable to their deadly effects. Armed conflict kills and maims children, disrupts their education, denies them access to essential health services, increases poverty, malnutrition and disease. Conflict can also separate children from their parents, or force them to flee their homes, witness atrocities or even perpetrate war crimes themselves.

Children are always among the first affected by conflict, whether directly or indirectly. Armed conflict affects their lives in many ways, and even if they are not killed or injured, they can be orphaned, abducted, raped and left with deep emotional scars and trauma from direct exposure to violence or from dislocation, poverty, or the loss of loved ones.

In addition to conflicts, Africa faces a huge burden of natural disasters and disease outbreaks – like Ebola, which have an equally heavy impact on children’s lives. Climate change is increasingly recognised as one of the biggest threats to children globally and in Africa. For example, the El Nino weather phenomenon, felt strongly here in Ethiopia, is exacerbating flooding and droughts, and worsening food crises across the Continent.

Last year, UNICEF responded to 141 humanitarian situations of varying scale in sub-Saharan Africa. We are working with governments, partners and communities to ensure that children’s rights are protected even in the most difficult of situations.

UNICEF is also continuing to invest in disaster-risk reduction, early preparedness and efforts to strengthen the resilience of children and their communities so that the impact of any future crises can be reduced.

But of course, what we ultimately need is greater political will to end conflicts in Africa and to ensure that children’s rights are protected even during times of humanitarian crises.

In preparation for this year’s Day of the African Child, UNICEF used an innovative messaging tool called U-Report to ask children if they think their leaders are doing enough to end conflicts and crises in Africa. The top message was that children don’t think that their leaders were doing enough. We also surveyed the children who participated in the pre-session and They came up with some very smart suggestions on what political leaders – including the Chairperson of the African Union – can do to stop conflict and crises in Africa.

Today’s commemoration of the Day of the African Child is a critical step in galvanising political support for the protection of children’s rights during conflicts and crises, and for holding state and non-state actors accountable when rights are violated.

So we must listen carefully to what the children today tell us. About how conflicts and crises are affecting their lives and what needs to be done to ensure their rights are fully realised. We know they have the answers. It is then our duty to share these messages with the people in power and push for action to be taken.

Day of the African Child is celebrated at Jewi Refugee camp – Gambella, Ethiopia By the African Union, Government of Ethiopia, UN and NGO’s in the presence of refugee children and their families

One year on – South Sudan refugee children still in need of life saving support

Refugee girls, Nya Panom Makal, Nya Choul Makal and Nayakhor Gatluack pumps water at Burbie Refugees Reception Centre
Refugee girls, Nya Panom Makal, Nya Choul Makal and Nayakhor Gatluack pumps water at Burbie Refugees Reception Centre ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene 

GAMBELLA, Ethiopia – 15 December, 2014: While recognising the 1st year anniversary of the onset of the emergency response for South Sudan refugees in Gambella today, UNICEF appreciated the commitment and dedication of its partners and the generous contribution of donors who have played a key role in providing lifesaving assistance to refugee women and children at the border crossing points, in the refugee camps, and to vulnerable host communities.

Since the conflict started in South Sudan a year ago, more than 190,900 refugees have crossed the border into Gambella Region in Ethiopia. Over 90 percent of the new arrivals are women and children. From the onset of the emergency, UNICEF, in partnership with the Gambella Regional Government, Administration of Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR, have developed a multi-sectoral emergency response strategy to address the humanitarian needs of vulnerable host communities and refugees at the border crossing point and refugee camps.

“Despite tremendous challenges faced by women and children in the refugee camps and border crossing points, we would not have made a difference in the lives of women and children if it has not been for the profound support of our donors and partners,” said Ms. Anupama Rao Singh, Acting Representative of UNICEF. “UNICEF is appreciative of their continued support to critical humanitarian action including: the provision of immunisation, primary health care, nutrition surveillance and prevention and treatment of malnutrition, provision of safe water and improved sanitation, hygiene promotion, psychosocial support for children, family tracing, reunification and care of separated children, and providing a protective environment for learning,” she added.

A mother walks back to her temporary shelter after visiting a clinic
A mother walks back to her temporary shelter with her children after visiting a clinic ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

UNICEF wishes to recognise the continued support of the Government of Ethiopia and partners including, ARRA, the Gambella Regional Health, Water and Education Bureaus, Bureau of Women and Children Affairs, Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs and the Gambella Institute of Teacher Training. UN partners including IOM, UNHCR, WFP, and Non-Governmental Organisations including: Action Contre La Faim, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, CONCERN Ethiopia, Danish Refugee Council, Ethiopian Red Cross Society GOAL, International Medical Corps, International Red Cross, Lutheran World Federation, Médecins Sans Frontières, Norwegian Refugee Council, OXFAM, Plan International Ethiopia, Save the Children International, ZOA and others.

Some of the key donors that supported UNICEF in the emergency response include, but are not limited to: the Governments of, the United Kingdom, the USA and Finland as well as European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF) and the UNICEF National Committees of the United Kingdom and US Fund for UNICEF.

UNICEF Ethiopia appeals for US$ 13.7 million to continue its life-saving emergency response for South Sudanese refugees in the Gambella region in 2015. With this funding, UNICEF and its partners will continue vaccinating children at the border crossing points and refugee camps, provide safe drinking water, basic hygiene and sanitation facilities, child protection and nutrition services, building learning spaces and provide teaching and learning material.

The scale of the crisis in the world’s youngest country is staggering. Since the violence erupted on 15 December 2013, almost 750,000 children have been internally displaced and more than 320,000 are living as refugees. An estimated 400,000 children have been forced out of school and 12,000 are reported as being used by armed forces and groups in the conflict. With traditional social structures damaged, children are also increasingly vulnerable to violence and to sexual abuse and exploitation.

 

New Year, potable water- How we spent our Ethiopian New year holiday

By Simon Odong

Kule Refugee Camp, Gambella, September 11, 2014- While the Americans were commemorating the 13th anniversary of 9/11 attack  on the world trade centre, the Ethiopians celebrated their 2007 new year day, we were with the South Sudanese Refugees in Kule settlement camp turning swamp water into safe drinking (potable) water.

Kule Refugee camp, opened in May 2015 and it  is home to over 50,000 refugees who fled from South Sudan due to conflict. The recent rains in Gambella coupled with run-off from the high lands channelled through Baro River, have already caused widespread flooding in Lietchuor Refugee Camp and Itang Town. The same rains have rendered most roads in Kule and Tierkidi Refugee camps making them inaccessible by large trucks. This means, nearly half of the population in Kule cannot be served with potable water through water trucking.As a result, women and children had to walk between two to four Kilometres to the nearest water point within the camp, while others resorted to drinking surface water.

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© UNICEF Ethiopia/2012/Odong A Refugee Woman Draws water from the Swamp on September 11 before completion of emergency water treatment installation

In Response to this, The UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR), have ordered an immediate repair of all roads starting with the overburdened spots. While the roads are being fixed by Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam with support from UNICEF, today installed an emergency water treatment kit (EmWat) to minimise the health risks of using surface water and to reduce the burden of women, boys and girls hauling water over long distances.

The EmWat kit is donated by UNICEF, installed by Oxfam with technical support from UNICEF and UNHCR. As a stop-gap measure it will provide safe drinking water to some 12,000 refugees residing in the hard to reach portion of the. Until a time when the in-camp roads are accessible by water trucks. The kit works on the principles of aided sedimentation, filtration and disinfection before distribution through a tap stand connected to a raised storage tank.

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© UNICEF Ethiopia/2012/Odong EmWat kit sedimentation tank

The long term solution to this problem however, is the construction of a piped water scheme. With an estimated US$2.5Millions, UNICEF is supporting this sustainable solution through designing the system; construction of water reservoir tanks and technical support to partners implementing the other portion of the system. Once completed, between April and May 2015, it will serve some 120,000 persons including the surrounding host communities of the two camps (Kule and Tierkidi).

In the WASH sector, UNICEF is supporting the Gambella operation in emergency areas such as this by pre-positioning essential supplies and equipment; support to sector coordination; mitigating the effects of the displacement on the host communities; looking beyond the emergency and providing ad-hoc technical support to partners.

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© UNICEF Ethiopia/2012/Odong Refugees accessing clean potable water from the EmWat Kit

One refugee woman had this to say after fetching water from the installed kit, “Yesterday was my first day to drink water from this swamp after I felt tired of walking to Zone C, why didn’t you people bring this thing (meaning Emwat Kit) yesterday?”  This was how we spent our Ethiopian New Year, thanks to Oxfam who is now running the kit.

UNICEF provides much needed clean water to new refugees from South Sudan and the local communities hosting them

By Elissa Jobson

Refugees cross the Baro river
South Sudan refugees cross the Baro river, which is the border between South Sudan and Ethiopia. Crossing the river means that they have reached Burebiey entry point in Gambella, Ethiopia . ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

GAMBELA, ETHIOPIA, 27 JUNE 2014 – The swollen Baro river marks the border between Ethiopia and it western neighbour, South Sudan. It’s fast-flowing waters are all that stand between those fleeing the brutal civil war in their home country and safety in Gambella. Dotted along the banks on the South Sudanese side are men, women and children, clutching their meagre possessions, waiting to be transported across the muddy-brown waterway in white plastic canoes. With battered suitcases and woven baskets on their head, those refugees – dusty, exhausted and in need of food and water – who have successfully made the river-crossing trudge towards Burebiey and the UNHCR registration tent, half a kilometre away.

Deng Gatek spent three days waiting to cross the Baro as he tried to scrape together the 30 birr (USD$1.5) fee he needed to secure passage for himself, his wife and his four children. He silently fills his yellow plastic jerry can with crystal clear water from UNICEF’s EM-Wat (emergency water) facility.

“We walked through the bush with hyenas and snakes. Many bad things happened,” Mr Gatek recalls, weariness and relief etched on his face. He can’t remember how many days the journey took from his home in Walang, in Jonglei State, to the border. “It was difficult to find water on the way. When we arrived at the border we were able to drink the river water. The water from the tap is much better than the river water – there is no dirt in it. I can take clean water to my wife and children now. They are at the registration centre,” he adds, pointing to a clutch of tents in the distance.

WASH Gambella region South Sudanese refugees  reception centre
David Luk Both, himself a refugee from South Sudan, is in charge of the EM-Wat treatment plant. Here he tests quality of the water pumped out of the river before going through the process making it ready for drinking. 26, June 2014 Burbiey South Sudanese Refugees Reception Centre in Gambella, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

David Luk Both, himself a refugee from South Sudan, is in charge of the EM-Wat treatment plant. Before the fighting broke out he had worked as a technician for MSF Holland for seven years. “The water is pumped from the river Baro into two 12,000 litre sedimentation tanks,” Mr Both explains. “The water sits in the tank until all the debris and mud has sunk to the bottom; aluminium sulphate is added to help the process. The pH of the water is tested to check the levels of acidity before it is pumped into a chlorination tank that kills all the bugs and germs in the water. It is then ready to drink.”

If needed, Mr Both and his team can provide up to 36,000 litres of clear water a day. “The refugees come all day to the taps. If I don’t treat the water they can’t drink it. I’m very happy because I’m helping my people,” he says.

Conflict prevention

More than 147,000 South Sudanese asylum seekers have arrived in Gambella since fighting erupted in Juba in December last year. This has placed a tremendous burden on local authorities which were already stretched – Gambella is one of the poorest regions in one of the most food insecure countries in the world, and was host to around 76,000 refugees from South Sudan before the current influx began.

Pel Puoch is head of the Water, Energy and Resources Office in Mokoey woreda (district). Nyien Nyang town, close to Leitchor refugee camp, is under his responsibility. “Before the provision of shallow wells in Leitchor camp, the refugees had started to use the water pumps in Nyien Nyang. This created a burden for the community,” Mr Puoch says. “UNICEF immediately understood the problem and increased its support to the wordea and the burden has been greatly reduced.”

This year UNICEF has installed 9 pumps in Nyien Nyang. There are 35 in total, serving a population of around 18,000, nearly half of which were constructed by UNICEF, including two at the local the hospital.

“The focus of all the NGOs and UN agencies has been on the refugees. At UNICEF, our focus is always on both the host community and the asylum seekers,” says Basazin Minda, WASH officer. “We identified the burden on the local services at an early stage and decided to increase the number of shallow wells in the area in order to create a balance between the host community and refugees.” He believes that the creation of the additional shallow wells and pumps has prevented potential conflicts over this precious resource between the indigenous community and the refugees they have provided sanctuary too.

A new lease of life

Mr Puoch has seen many benefits from the construction of water pumps in the heart of the community. “Having the pumps close to their homes means that the women will save time collecting water. Previously, when they had to go to a faraway pump they would not use the water for hygiene. But because they can access water in the local area at any time, sanitation has improved,” he insists.

“When the pumps were some distance away they would break often. Now they are close to the homes the community takes better care of them.

At Dobrar village, Nyarout Jok, a mother of four, uses the UNICEF water pump twice a day.
At Dobrar village, Nyarout Jok, a mother of four, uses the UNICEF water pump twice a day. It’s just 300m away from her home and fetching water now takes less than 20 minutes a day. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ayene

At Dobrar village, Nyarout Jok, a mother of four, uses the UNICEF water pump twice a day. It’s just 300m away from her home and fetching water now takes less than 20 minutes a day. Before the tap was installed she had to walk over a kilometre each way to the nearest water source, which took at least an hour. “I use the extra time to grind flour and take care of my children,” she says. “I have also returned to education. I’m a grade 5 student.”

So why did she decide to go back to school? “I need to do my own job,” she says. “I will be able to earn my own income and I will become more confident. I want to be either a doctor or an engineer.”

Click here for latest update on South Sudan refugees status in Ethiopia.

UNICEF Ethiopia Supports South Sudanese Children with Vaccination Services

By Demissew Bizuwerk

Nyabiel Chamjock and her nine moth old daughter in Tergol.
Nyabiel Chamjock holds her nine months old daughter closer after he gets vaccinated. Nyabiel is one of the thousands asylum seekers, who crossed into Tergol town of Akobo Woreda, the Gambella region of Ethiopia that borders with South Sudan. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Bizuwerk

TERGOL, AKOBO WOREDA (GAMBELLA REGION)- Nyabiel Chamjock, a 20-year-old South Sudanese refugee, waits in line at the vaccination post with her nine-month-old daughter in her arms. She joins a long queue of other mothers with young children who are also waiting at the post to receive vaccinations. The growing queue is evidence of an effective community mobilisation campaign carried out in the last few days. In addition to the vaccination post where Nyabiel is waiting, three more posts have been made operational to cope with demand from the rising influx of South Sudan refugees. To ensure that vaccination posts are adequately stocked with supplies – two UNICEF boats regularly deliver vaccines. Nyabiel is one of the thousands of refugees who crossed into Tergol town in January in the Gambella Region of Ethiopia bordering South Sudan. Sadly, Nyabiel lost her husband during the tribal conflict between the Murle and the Lue Nuer tribes more than a year ago. She has recently had to face more tragedy. The eruption of violence in South Sudan, in December 2013, forced Nyabiel to flee into Ethiopia in search of safe refuge. After trekking most of the day on foot, clutching her child and a few selected belongings, she managed to cross the border.

Mass Vaccination Campaign for Refugees and Host Community
After waiting 30 minutes in the queue, Nyabiel’s daughter finally receives her required vaccines. She receives an injection against measles and drops to prevent her from contracting polio; she also receives vitamin A supplementation. In addition, her mid-upper arm circumference is measured to check her nutrition status. The chubby little infant looks surprisingly healthy despite the difficult conditions that her family is facing. Before Nyabiel leaves the vaccination post she is given a card confirming her daughter’s immunisation. She is also reminded that it is important to keep the card safe for future reference.

Nyabiel understands the importance of vaccinations for her child. “I know that my child will be protected from diseases after taking the vaccines. It is difficult in this area to keep a child healthy. As it gets dry and hot, children easily fall sick,” she said.

A four years old boy from South Sudan receiving a Polio vaccination in Tergol town   A child getting a Vitamin A supplementation in Tergol town.

UNICEF supports the provision of vaccination and nutrition supplements to children affected by the conflict in South Sudan
 

The mass vaccination campaign administered to South Sudanese refugees and members of the host community in Tergol, the capital of Akobo Woreda, is supported by UNICEF in coordination with the Regional Health Bureau. The campaign started at the beginning of January 2014 and more than 95 per cent of children have been targeted for immunisation.

UNICEF has prepositioned emergency vaccine supplies in the Gambella Region to ensure a timely response to the acute emergency needs of those fleeing from the violence in South Sudan and also to the vulnerable members of the host community. The mass vaccination campaign is crucial in preventing outbreaks like measles and polio. In the context of population movement across borders – especially in emergency situations – disease outbreaks can easily occur and prevention measures need to be in place to protect vulnerable mothers and children.

“This vaccination campaign is very important for the health of children both from the host community and refugees,” says Getachew Haile, UNICEF health emergency officer.  “It protects the children from contagious viral diseases such as measles and polio,” he adds.

In addition to the provision for vaccines against measles and polio, vitamin A supplementation is also given to children aged between six months and five years. Since the Gambella Region is prone to malaria, a distribution of mosquito nets has also helped to reduce the incidence of malaria morbidity and mortality.

Coordination Work
The emergency response to South Sudan refugees in Tergol is being coordinated by the Government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR. UNICEF supports the health activities of ARRA and UNHCR in partnership with the Regional Health Bureau. Adequate planning and functional systems have been put in place to manage human resource and logistic arrangements. In addition, health workers from Gambella town and adjacent areas such as Gniengnang, Wantowa and Tergol have received a one-day orientation.

With the support of the local administration, vaccination posts have been set up in locations that are accessible to the host community and refugees. Community mobilisation work has been an integral part of the vaccination campaign to ensure that community members and refugees are aware of the campaign programme and its importance to the health of mothers and children.

Head of the Akobo Woreda health office, Samuel Yien, acknowledges the impact of UNICEF’s support. He says that the emergency vaccination campaign is going well and that the activities are monitored closely. “We are grateful for the support we received from UNICEF. We are coordinating activities together and so far the campaign is good,” he added.

The Akobo Woreda (district) is the most inaccessible area in the Gambella Region. To reach the woreda capital of Tergol, one has to take an eight-hour boat ride from Buribe town- the last town accessible by vehicle. Accessibility problems make the role of UNICEF boats essential in delivering vaccines and other supplies to the vaccination posts.

Children are the most affected by the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Bizuwerk

Thousands of civilians, mainly women and children, have been affected by the violence that broke out in South Sudan in mid-December 2013. At the beginning of April 2014, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimated that more than 88,000 refugees crossed over the Ethiopian border through six entry points including Tergol, since the conflict began. These people are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, including food, water and health services. Mothers and their babies are visibly weak after enduring the long trek to Tergol, while some of the children are malnourished. As the influx of refugees increases and puts food supplies under strain, the nutritional status of newly arrived children deteriorates.

Although some of the refugees in Tergol are being accommodated by the host community, there are still many more staying in makeshift shelters close to the Akobo River.

Nyabiel constructed her small makeshift shelter from sticks and rags to offer some protection from the piercing sun. Her new rickety home is shared with her child, her grandmother and a few scattered bags containing her belongings. She hopes better times await her child. She is keen to keep her daughter healthy and despite the challenges she faces – she is determined to send her to school because “an education will help bring her a better future,” she adds.