Nyakoun Tut is just 24, yet little in her young life has been easy. The mother of two lives in a refugee camp in the Gambella region of Ethiopia, just across the border from her home country, South Sudan.
Nyakoun recalls her home fondly. “We had a small farm, sheep, goats, and cattle. We always had enough.” But South Sudan has been gripped by conflict for the last six years, causing millions to flee to neighboring Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya — and Nyakoun was among those that fled.
“So many people were killed. Behind us, in front of us, beside us. So many people, even children.”
She vividly remembers the day a militia group attacked her village. “Everyone was running in different directions. I could not see my husband. I just ran with my little girl,” she recalls. “So many people were killed. Behind us, in front of us, beside us. So many people, even children.”
Separated from her husband in the chaos, Nyakoun and her daughter spent six days searching for safety. They had no food, and the only water they had to drink was from dirty puddles they found along the way. Violence surrounded them the whole time. Eventually, Nyakoun carried her daughter all the way to Ethiopia.
Explore Nyakoun’s life in the camp in this 360° video:
A refugee of war
Crossing the border into Ethiopia, Nyakoun was overcome with relief. “When we crossed the border, I knew we were safe. I knew that we would survive,” she says.
Nyakoun and her daughter, Knyakotar, now live in Pugnido Camp with her one-year-old son, Thujin. The family has finally found safe haven, as well as access to services and food provided by a range of organizations, including Concern Worldwide.
She no longer has to fear violence, but what she saw still haunts her. “I cannot stop thinking about the war, about my brothers who were killed,” she explains. “Even now, I have nightmares. When I wake up I am still thinking about them. I feel sad every day.”
“I worry my son will die because we do not have enough food.”
Nyakoun’s husband is still back in South Sudan and she struggles to look after their children on her own. In the camp, there’s no opportunity to earn an income, and sometimes there isn’t enough food to eat. Thujin has become malnourished, and Knyakotar spends her days hungry.
“I worry my son will die because we do not have enough food,” Nyakoun says, anxiously.
Looking forward to the future
Thankfully, Thujin has just received his first course of peanut-based Plumpy’Nut, an emergency therapeutic food that will provide him with the calories and nutrients he needs to recover. Concern is also providing his sister Knyakotar with extra rations of food so she won’t go hungry.
Concern has also started to distribute vegetable and fruit seeds to every household — including Nyakoun’s — along with tools and training. It’s a solution that’s far more sustainable than food aid, and enables families to look forward to bountiful harvests with a large variety of food to eat. Nyakoun has already planted moringa and cassava, and is excited to plant more.
Life can still be difficult, but already Nyakoun is starting to look forward to her future. She finds hope wherever she can — even in the smallest things, like her tiny seedlings. And with each day that passes, she’s grows more confident that things will get better for her and her young family.