Dak’s Story, Ethiopia

Photo: L.F.Godinho/2014

Photo by L.F. Godinho/2014

“There is time for peace and time for war. But peace is better, and when the conflict is resolved I will go back to my country.” This is the perception of Dak Kier Ngaw, 34 years old, about the current situation of his home country, South Sudan. With his wife and 7 children, he left his country at the end of May to seek asylum in Ethiopia.

“When I arrived in Ethiopia, I felt vulnerable, without any capacity to do something to protect the life of my family and provide assistance for my children,” says Dak, within one of the community shelters set up by UNHCR and partners at Burubiey, a remote village that is receiving thousands of South Sudanese refugees looking for safety and peace.

The feeling of weakness and powerlessness is not a new feeling for Dak, who is now a refugee for the second time. In 1994, when he was only 14 years old, he was forced to leave his country, Sudan, because of the fighting between the North and the South. On that occasion, he lived for 11 years in a refugee camp in Dimma, Ethiopia. Less than a decade later, an armed conflict between different political groups of the newest country in the world forced Dak to leave his home again.

Now, the big difference is that Dak is married and fled with his entire family. He is especially concerned about the twins Duop and Nyanwal, who were born last May, during the family’s flight from South Sudan to Ethiopia. “They were born in a MSF hospital in Nassir”, one of the last cities before the border between South Sudan and Ethiopia. “We couldn’t go on because it was very difficult for my wife. And we were hoping that the conflict would not reach Nassir,” remembers Dak.

But it did, and their only option was cross the South Sudanese border into Ethiopia. From the entry point known as Burubiey, where Dak and his family arrived and were registered, they were relocated the Kule 02 refugee camp, one of the three refugee camps opened by UNHCR and the Ethiopian government to receive those arriving from South Sudan.

“I feel bad because I left my country, and our country is the best place to live,” affirms Dak. Nevertheless, he’s ready to face a new period in exile. For the time being, in Burubiey, he is receiving some support from his mother, Nyakirr Kuon Yual, who is also crossing the border to help Dak’s wife with the twins. Incredibly, the other five children look like they have adapted to their new reality, and are already playing around Burubiey. “I miss my life in South Sudan and my job,” says Dak, who used to work as a clerk at the Ministry of Finance in Malakal, South Sudan.


By Luiz Fernando Godinho, in Burubiey, Ethiopia/2014.

1 family torn apart by war is too many

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