A South Sudanese mother goes from scared to safe

How one refugee mother looks forward to a more peaceful future thanks to USA for UNHCR donors

August 9, 2017

Ajoneny Palma and her family are South Sudanese refugees who once had a happy life. When conflict arrived in their town, they were forced to flee the violence that tore through their peaceful community.

The Palmas lived in Yei — a town in South Sudan that, until recently, was spared the violence of the civil war that broke out in 2013. There, Ajoneny worked as a seamstress. Between her earnings and her husband’s income, there was enough money to shelter, feed, clothe and send their five children to school. They were a happy family.

In 2016 when a ceasefire fell apart, armed militias began to spread terror throughout more of the country — including Yei.

At home, men would come at night and
slaughter people inside their homes.

South Sudanese refugee Ajoneny Palma and her children, safe at the Imvepi reception center.

Attackers pillaged Ajoneny’s village, where she watched in horror as two of her brothers-in-law were slaughtered. Their killers followed Ajoneny into her home and beat her with their guns. Without a safe place for her children, she knew they had to flee. In the chaos, there was no time to find her husband or pack their belongings, so they ran with only the clothes on their backs.

Ajoneny, her five children and her niece walked for 12 days. They slept in buildings when they could and survived on very little food and water. When UN Refugee Agency staff members welcomed the family at the Ugandan border, the Palmas finally felt relief after months of terror.

I feel at home because this is a place where there is peace.
There is nothing more to fear.

After eating their first hot meal in weeks, Ajoneny and her family received medical check-ups and emergency shelter in the communal dormitories. Once registered as refugees with UNHCR — the UN Refugee Agency — they were assigned a plot of land and materials to build a temporary shelter in the Bidibidi refugee settlement.

South Sudan Infographic - Emergency Shelter Kits in Uganda

Despite the trauma she’s endured, Ajoneny says she is “feeling very happy.” She is ready to settle into her new home and “to stay here in Uganda because I need the children to go back to school.”

Ajoneny, her family and refugees all over the world need protection and help rebuilding their lives. With generous USA for UNHCR donor support, the UN Refugee agency will do everything in its power to help as many vulnerable women, men, and children as possible.

Here’s how you can help …

UNHCR field workers in Uganda struggle to keep up with the thousands of refugees arriving every day — but you can help. For a family like the Palmas that walked on foot for days to escape horrific violence, your gifts will provide the shelter and other humanitarian assistance they so desperately need. Become a USA for UNHCR monthly donor and help more refugees rebuild their lives today.