*Kuku and *Tiya (not their real names) have been best friends for a long time. Not even war could come between their friendships. Driven out of their homes in the Nuba Mountains South Kordofan, Sudan by civil unrest and the threat of constant aerial bombings with no guarantee of safety, the two friends fled separately and started their desperate journey out of harm’s way. Their destination was the Yida Transit Centre ran by AAH South Sudan and supported by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). AAH South Sudan took over the management of this centre in August 2013. This centre serves as the reception point for all refugees arriving in South SudanfromSudan mainly the Nuba Mountains war affected region.
The two friends recall the nerve-racking trip from Kauda, South Kordofan to Yida which took days of walking with their children in tow. Kuku sits upright on her chair, scans my face and starts to narrate that ordeal. “We came on foot from Kauda, South Kordofan to Kurche (a nearby town), a journey that took us over 12 hours to trek to where we spent the night. Luckily, we found a humanitarian vehicle that was heading to Tabanye (another town), which we boarded the following day. On reaching Tabanye, we decided to spend our 2nd night there because it was late. The following day we woke up and headed to Jao (another town - near the border between Sudan and South Sudan), but unfortunately, the car ran out of fuel and we were forced to walk for more than eight hours and arrived at Yida Transit Centre at nightfall. We were very exhausted, hungry and thirsty. We had painful and swollen feet. Our children were dehydrated due to the hot scorching sun. On arrival we were immediately attended to and we were able to inform the officers there about the other masses of people who were walking towards the centre.” says Kuku.
We have had our ups and downs since we came here, we lost everything we had including family members; personally I lost two brothers, one of whom was a father of 15 children.” She says glancing at her friend Tiya seated next to her.
“What about you Tiya, how did you get here?” I ask. She clears her throat, smiles and begins to tell me her story. “My husband was killed in 2012; this led me to come to Yida, first to seek safety, but I was also desperate to get employment. I needed to support my two boys aged seven and two and see them go to school. At first I thought of going to Juba or Kakuma because I knew either of the places would be of help to my children, but I finally decided to remain in Yida she says as she gazes into the thin air.
“So, how is it that you both ended up here, did you come together?” I ask. They both smile and simultaneously shake their heads. Kuku begins to explain. When our area was attacked, we both ran our separate ways to seek refuge. We knew nothing about each other’s whereabouts back home, we were both students at a teachers’ training institute. The outbreak of war however brought everything to a halt and when violence erupted, everyone fled and we never thought we could ever see each other again”
Fast forward to eight months later, Kuku and Tiya are both employed as cooks at the Yida Transit Centre. “Since I got this job, I am able to comfortably meet my family’s needs. Part of the money I have received as salary has gone a long way in assisting my nieces and nephews that were left as orphans after my brother’s demise,” says Kuku.
“This job has not only enabled me to take my children to school but has also helped me to provide a better life for them. I can say that am comfortable with my current circumstances and the stability the centre has given us until God brings us peace and we are able to return home someday” says Tiya.
Yida Transit Centre is an AAH/UNHCR ran temporary establishment that provides food and accommodation to Persons of Concern (Poc) yet to be willingly relocated to Ajuong Thok Refugee Camp for resettlement. It is designed to give the refugees a better sense of security amid the uncertain future they face.
Apart from the employment opportunities created by the existence of the transit centre; including cooks, guards, cleaners and translators amongst others, the centre has also opened up business development as food for the refuges is procured locally from the nearby Yida Market.
By Linda K. Ongwenyi, Communications Officer, AAH-I