Ngovu village was a peaceful place to live before conflict erupted in the area three years ago.
The violence forced all of its inhabitants to flee to other areas within the Western Bahr El Ghazal region of South Sudan.
Nineteen-year-old Regina Peter was among those displaced from Ngovu after her father was killed. She first headed to nearby Baggari, only to find the situation was dire there too.
When we reached Baggari village, we stayed in the bush, says Regina Peter. At times, rain water used to wash us away and there were many disease outbreaks like malaria, diarrhea and vomiting. We had to resort to local herbs to treat ourselves as there was no medical facility.
Regina’s family ended up seeking sanctuary at a United Nations protection site, 15 kilometres away in Wau. The security situation in the area has improved in the wake of the signing of a new peace deal last year. This has encouraged Regina to make the difficult decision to leave the UN camp and move back to Ngovu.
Her return is being made a bit easier thanks to a major clean-up campaign to clear the debris of war and help rebuild services, carried out by UNMISS, UN agencies and local partners in the community.
Regina, her brother and two sisters are back in their own home, living with their mother. They all pitch in to help with the household chores and to support the family. While they are happy to be back, settling in has been a challenge.
We stay with our mother because our father is dead; he was killed during the conflict. Life used to be much better when he was alive, says Regina. Now, it is difficult to get even food. Sometimes my mother goes out to work as a casual labourer in order to get us food.
The process of rebuilding their lives will take time. But, her neighbours have been welcoming and kind.
We don’t have any food ration cards because we arrived here late, and we were not able to register, she says. So, sometimes we get food from the church, and sometimes we get it from some people who received their cards. They normally give us some.
Just like Regina, the conflict has also affected 40-year old Mayige Lina James. She lost her husband which has crippled her ability to make a living and raise her three children.
My husband was killed during the conflict here in Wau, even though he was not a soldier, says Mayige Lina James. Due to that it has become difficult for me to cater to my children. Paying school fees is difficult. I work as a labourer and do a little business to manage my children’s school fees and use part of the money for feeding.
Despite only being able to provide one meal a day for her family, she hopes the situation will improve thanks to the new peace deal.
With the initial peace agreement, the security situation has become better than it was before. Now, we can sleep peacefully at night, she says. Therefore, we pray that the recently signed peace agreement will be real, so that people can stay together without any conflict. The only issue that is disturbing now is to earn to make a better living.
Her dream is for a better future for her own family but also for other families across the country who are also suffering but remain ever hopeful that, with peace, will come prosperity for all.
Source: UN Mission in South Sudan