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Achol: Struggling to survive

South Sudan, July 5, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Achol Ngong Chan and a few of her children, outside their makeshift shelter in a displacement camp near Agok, Sudan. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Achol, her husband and their five children had to walk two days before reaching this displacement camp. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

In late May, the Sudanese Army invaded the contested border area of Abyei with tanks and heavy weapons. More than 110,000 residents had to flee their homes in Abyei to escape the violent fighting.

Achol Ngong Chan, the mother of five children, escaped Abyei but was forced to leave everything behind.

“When we had to run away, it was with great suffering,” she recalls. “We left by footing [walking]. We walked for two days before we reached this place.”

Achol could not carry anything with her. She and her husband had to help the children walk the long distance, so they traveled with only the clothes on their backs, and carried the smallest children.

When they arrived in Agok, along with thousands of other displaced families, they had nowhere to sleep and no food to eat.

“We spent the first several nights sleeping under the trees,” explained Achol. “It was very hard, especially when it rained. We were very happy when we received this plastic sheeting and some supplies so we could be more comfortable.

Mercy Corps, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were able to respond the crisis immediately and provide plastic sheeting for temporary shelter and other basic items. But the needs are still tremendous as the conflict is not resolved — well over 100,000 people remain displaced and in need of continuing assistance.

Achol used her plastic sheet to construct a sturdy hut that she now lives in with her family, but they are struggling to find enough food to eat.

“Since last night, we have had nothing to eat,” she says. “This morning I told my children and their father to go look for firewood to sell. We are just searching for something to eat.”