After walking for a week from South Sudan, relieved does not even begin to describe how Opani felt when she saw UN Refugee Agency staff members at the Ugandan border. “I am now safe, I will not die, and I will not be slaughtered,” she said when she arrived.
Before conflict erupted, Opani had a peaceful life. She and her husband had a house in Morobo, South Sudan and good jobs. They were eager to raise their newborn baby girl, Brenda, in their safe, happy home.
Then soldiers arrived and life became a nightmare.
[Soldiers] move from home to home. If they find you, they kill you. They slaughter you, it’s not even killing.
In a desperate search for safety, Opani was separated from her husband and fled with Brenda to her grandfather’s home. Sadly, the fighting soon spread to his village, too. Having witnessed horrific violence, Opani knew she had to flee her country — even though it meant leaving everything behind, including her grandfather, who did not want to leave. He told her, “Go and find a way you can survive with your daughter.”
For one week, Opani walked barefoot through the bush, carrying Brenda and a bag. They had virtually nothing to eat or drink. She remembers that she slept “with one eye open during the night, under trees, worrying about snakes and attackers.”
Determined to save her daughter, Opani pressed on despite her hunger, thirst and fear.
Thankfully, they made it to the safety of the Ugandan border, where the UN Refugee Agency welcomed them. Opani and Brenda now have a safe place to sleep in the Bidibidi settlement in Northern Uganda, the world’s largest refugee settlement. They have food, water, shelter, medical care and a plot of land. It is the first time they have felt safe in months, and Opani can plan for her daughter’s future.
Nearly two million refugees like Opani and Brenda have escaped the violence and drought plaguing South Sudan. The number grows by thousands every day. Nearly a million people have fled to Uganda, one of the poorest countries on earth. Like those who have fled Syria and other crises around the world, South Sudanese refugees have seen their country destroyed, their villages burned and families torn apart. Thanks to USA for UNHCR donors, refugees can be protected and supported when they first arrive and receive the tools they need to help to rebuild their lives.
Here’s how you can help …
There are more refugees like Opani and her daughter who need food, shelter and urgent assistance. The best way to help is to become USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor today. Start your gifts to keep refugees safe.