Kaderia* doesn’t know how old she is. As she tells me her story I try to guess her age, she looks about fifty but perhaps her difficult life has made her age quicker. As she talks her face betrays a life of difficulty and anguish but also a look of pride and defiance.
Kaderia was born in a village she calls Ogulu in the Nuba Mountains which is in the state of South Kordofan in Sudan. She was born in that village, grew up there, got married and lived all her life there until May of this year but now she says she will never return:
‘My village was a very good place, except this war when people came and destroyed everything and chased the old people until we eventually escaped and came to a safe place. The whole village was burned down.’ She says a lot of people in the village died in the attack.
Kaderia explains that nothing like this had happened in their village before this year. ‘I don’t know why these people did this, maybe they wanted to take the land from us’ she explains.
Kaderia’s difficulties didn’t just begin in May this year, she has lived a hard life. Her husband died shortly after they got married. She remarried to a soldier and he was killed in the conflict in the Nuba mountains. Before May she says she and many of her villagers spent more than five months trying to hide in caves in the mountains.
After they fled their village Kaderia and her people spent two days walking until they reached Yida refugee camp, located in northern Unity state in South Sudan. ‘Yida is a big area and it is good’ she says as she explains she has no desire to return to the place where she has lived all her life. ‘I don’t want to go back as fighting might erupt again, we will stay in Yida’.
Kaderia has no children of her own. She was brought from Yida to Bentiu by another NGO to act as a caretaker for a relative’s child who needed to be transported for surgical care. The child is now recovering in our clinic. I had presumed before our conversation that this was her grandchild such is the level of care and attention she gives to him.
She also has her own health concerns. When fleeing from the village she fell and injured her back. She is still experiencing pain. She looks tired but I wonder if her life will be any easier in the refugee camp or how long she will be able to remain there. Her only shoes, a pair of plastic flip flops, are worn to almost non-existence. She explains they are very old but she can’t afford a new pair which retail for about €3 in the markets in Bentiu.
Her story is only of the hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people in South Sudan. They face huge challenges in coping with a new environment difficult living conditions in camps and trying to integrate into a new community. Kaderia has however been through tough times before and I am sure if anyone can survive such a trauma she will.
*Names changed to preserve anonymity