South Sudan: a family torn apart by violence
“We could see and hear the fighting outside,” Majek*, a 77-year-old grandfather in South Sudan tells me. “Men were firing machine guns in the street. Bullets flew through the windows into our building. We lay under the beds to hide.” He was celebrating a family wedding when the violence erupted in Juba (the capital of South Sudan).
Separated from his children in the chaos
“After three days it was safe to leave. When we came out there were dead bodies in the streets, and I heard that there had also been fighting in my home town. It had been overrun and the road back was blocked.”
Majak had no choice. There was only one safe way out of Juba, and it was in the opposite direction to his home. In the chaos his children became separated from him.
“I was so scared thinking of my children. I had no phone and no way to contact them. I was losing my senses in this time. I can barely remember it. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I was not thinking about me, just my children.”
“I didn’t know what to do”
When he eventually reached safety, he tells me, “I didn’t know what to do. Then I heard Save the Children were looking for children who were alone, and asking people if they had lost their children. So I told them and they said they would try to help.”
Save the Children is working across South Sudan to identify children who have been separated from their parents, give them protection and support, and ultimately reunite them with their families.
It was ten long days before our team brought Majak the news he was desperately hoping for, but feared would never come.
Save the Children reunites another family
His children were safe and well more than 300km away in Awerial, where around 100,000 people had fled across the River Nile.
Today, I am talking to Majak and his family on the edge of this tented city. Save the Children brought Majak here to be with his children, and have provided essential aid items to the whole family.
“When I heard my children were okay I was totally, extremely happy. When we saw each other again we all cried with happiness. I thought I was calm but when it happened I couldn’t control my happiness.
“Thank God and Save the Children for finding my children.”
Majak’s youngest, Abiei*, is just 5 years old. When she’s not pulling faces or inviting us for a sleepover she makes one thing clear: “The best thing in this place is being with my father.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities