Yar’s reunion with her father and brother provided only momentary joy. Their arrival in Ethiopia brought short relief. Rebels overthrew the government in Ethiopia. These political changes led to attacks and violence in the refugee camps. This drove Yar, her father and brother, and many other refugees, back into Sudan.
At one point in this terrible trek, Yar had to cross the River Gilo. You can get a glimpse of this in the movie The Good Lie. Thousands of children drowned, were eaten by crocodiles, or shot by militia as they tried to cross the river.
I remember the endless rains of that spring. Mother Nature cried for us and for our plight, but her tears only made life more treacherous.
Dangerous diseases lurked at every turn and explosive devices waited in every corner.
We stayed in one camp or village until it became too dangerous then we fled to another.
We made our journey with painstaking care, following the footsteps of the person in front so to miss hidden land mines. We marched along single file in order to avoid being attacked by lions or other predators, just as we did on our way to Ethiopia.
Those before us had dug trenches, in which we hid for hours.
The dampness rotted our feet and insects buried themselves in our flesh; never ending fear rotted our hearts and minds.
When I slept, it was with the hope that we would not die before dawn. The devastation was unimaginable and the horror terrifying.
Gunfire and the explosion of bombs no longer roused me far out of my daze, until one fateful morning.
That day, my father died in my arms
Just one year after we had been reunited, I was alone.
I had no one to care for me.
I was no longer special to someone.
I became another ‘Lost Child’.
Though I had never thought it possible, my circumstances instantly became significantly worse. As an eight and a half year old girl, alone without a parent or other adult caretaker, I became more vulnerable than I ever imagined possible.
Terror shook my soul, and life seemed useless to me.
I had nothing to live for, and I contemplated stepping out of line. Just as I was about to make my move, I realized that I could not leave my brother behind.
I was all that he had left; I had to care for him.
We moved on.
Over a year had passed since my father’s death, but I had no way of tracking time.
One day merged into the next as my despair grew to depths I did not fathom was possible.
My focus remained solely on survival and rarely did I dare to let hope enter my world.
Yet, as we were ushered into Kenya by food and medicine convoys I could not help but wonder if there would be relief to our misery.
I looked around and saw barren, windswept ground.
There was nothing to set my hope on, nothing to live for, nothing except perhaps a place to rest.
It is believed some 10,000 children arrived in Katuma Refugee Camp. The camp was set up in 1992 to help the refugees fleeing the South Sudan crisis.
We were quickly divided into groups, given materials to build shelters, and ration cards for food.
Supply limited our consumption but for the first time in months, I had food to eat. Although we only had food in scant quantities, it was on a somewhat regular basis.
Based on my ration card number, I was given food once every fifteen days. If I missed distribution day, I did not eat for the next fifteen days.
Being an unaccompanied female minor deeply shaped my life in camp. Relatives or other families took in most girls, whereas boys lived by themselves in groups.
I slept with a ‘roof’ over my head.
I even attended school.
Yet, while the ‘normalcy’ of life in the refugee camp comforted some, I longed for more.
If you have not watched the movie The Good Lie, now, at this point in Yar’s story, would be a good time to familiarize yourself with the journey of the Lost Boys and Girls at this time in history and the events of South Sudan.
I am telling Yar’s story in installments every other Tuesday. Please visit my Lost Girls page to read the previous installments.