"I’m a returnee from Khartoum and now a displaced person from Abyei," 30-year-old Nyan-man Ajiing explained.
Nyan-man, the mother of triplets — two boys and a girl — had been in Khartoum during the long Sudanese civil war. In December 2010, she returned to her ancestral home in the city of Abyei, along with other thousands of returnees who came back to South Sudan in anticipation of independence, which was set in motion with a referendum vote on January 9, 2011. Southern Sudanese like Nyan-man also feared how would be treated in the north after the south secedes later this week, on July 9.
According to Nyan-man, being a returnee from Khartoum was difficult — but it was better than being an internally-displaced person (IDP) from Abyei with three children, all aged just seven months old. While she was living in Abyei, she made and sold tea to purchase powdered milk for her three kids, as her milk alone wasn't enough for three hungry babies. But now, living in displacement, she has no opportunity to sell tea, and so there is no way she can raise any money for milk for her children.
"You look at these kids, the way they are crying here is the way I spent my entire day, week and even the last month”, Nyan-man said.
“When I was forced to flee Abyei on May 20, I was lucky to escape with my children," she continued. "We left everything we'd had earned for the last 20 years, but that’s not what concerns me; my big concern is the survival of my children.
"Looking around this camp, you can tell that we do not have any food, shelter or clinical services. For grown up people like myself, I can endure, but this is traumatizing for my children. Every day is painful.
"Now I am the mother, the father and I do not have any one to share this burden with — my husband hasn’t come back from Khartoum and we haven’t been able to communicate with him since the crisis."
The conditions for IDPs from Abyei is not only desperate, but very scary — there has been fighting and panic around the area. Life generally is a struggle around here, but now the market prices have doubled for basic goods, and most displaced families have no source of income since having to leave their homes.
Mercy Corps has worked with the people of Abyei for some time now and is working to find a way to ease the suffering of IDPs like Nyan-mam. But their situation will only really be improved long term when the issue of Abyei is resolved between the government of Sudan and the new government of South Sudan.
Until then, it is people such as Nyan-mam who continue to suffer daily — struggling to meet her family’s basic needs, with an uncertain future for her children.