In our previous installment of Yar’s story we ended with the happy news of Yar being reunited with her father. The appearance of a kind “soldier man” helped her to her feet and gave her protection. He seemed to vanish as quickly as he appeared. Yar never saw him again. Today, Yar’s story continues with their journey on foot as she flees the fighting in Sudan with her father and brother towards the safety of Ethiopia.
After being reunited with my father, the grim reality of our situation hit me. My mother and sisters were nowhere to be found.
As we traveled towards Ethiopia, we anxiously greeted passersby with hopes they would have news, but no one had word of their whereabouts.
My hunger for information about them gnawed at my heart, while hunger for food ravished my stomach.
The further we traveled from my home, the further we got from the realities of our old life.
Survival became our focus— although as a young girl in the care of her father, I did not truly understand the dire nature of our circumstances. Nor was I aware of the precarious situation of the thousands traveling with us.
The refugee exodus as a result of the major offensive that devastated and depopulated large areas of South Sudan included large numbers of children whose parents were either dead or missing. Many of these were young boys, though the refugee stream included adults and girls as well.
UNHCR and International Red Cross estimates are inexact, but it is probable that somewhere between 20 and 25 thousand children walked across the desert from South Sudan to Ethiopia.
The trek took between several weeks to several months, depending on the region of origin.
Many people died along the way from lack of food and water, and lack of protection from animals.
As a group, we trekked endlessly during the evening hours, when lions and other animals were less likely to attack. The darkness of the evening hid us from the enemy; the dampness of nightfall created dew on the leaves and grass, which provided us with much needed moisture to drink.
When day broke, we stepped off the path and hid in the thicket of the bush. All day long, my brother and I hid from sight, making little movement and no sound.
When my father left us to forage for food, he tied special knots on grasses to guide him back to us. Despite his clever system, we feared that one day he would not return.
All day, every day, all night, every night, we lived in fear.
After three months, we finally made it across the border into Ethiopia.
The aid workers in Ethiopia who saw the refugees come out of the desert called the children, because many where young males, “the lost boys,” which is how the name for this group originated.
You may be familiar with the term the Lost Boys of Sudan, but now we know there were girls in this group. too.
I am telling Yar’s story in installments every other Tuesday. Please visit my Lost Girls page to read the previous installments.
Historical information on the South Sudanese Refugee Crisis, David Chanoff