Asha is one of a wave of refugees who have recently arrived in South Sudan. She spent nine days in the bush, foraging for food to give her children, before she arrived in Maban county. She says there were others in the forest and many of them - including two of her sons - didn't make it.
MABAN – Despite everything she and her family have been through, Asha Almak Achi, 35, is smiling as she walks to her shelter at the Batil refugee camp, which is host to about 34,000 refugees who have fled fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile State into South Sudan.
She is just back from a grinding mill where she transformed into flour some of the cereals she received as part of WFP’s food assistance to refugees who arrive in Maban County in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State.
Asha says that when she arrived with five of her children thirsty, hungry and exhausted from a nine-day trek in the bush all they wanted was food.
“We were so hungry when we arrived. Since we received food my children are happy. They enjoy eating the peas (lentils) which I cook with the oil we were given,” says Asha. “I grind some of the cereal into flour which I use to bake bread… We are happy with what we have.”
The smile disappears from Asha’s face when her thoughts race back to how she fled her native Blue Nile State and the horrors she experienced in days spent foraging in the forest. She says one of her teenage sons was taken captive by armed men (who she could not identify) while another son went missing as people escaped.
“I saw horrible things on our way here. Tired and hungry old women would sit under trees and die… I saw a pregnant woman die as she struggled to deliver a baby in the bush. She was weak. The newborn baby also died.”
“One thing I can tell you from this experience is this - it is not good to be hungry,” Asha says firmly as she grabs the bag of flour on her head.
Asha is not hungry anymore after she received full month’s ration of food while she was at the Jamam camp before she was relocated to the newly established Yusuf Batil Camp.
Since January WFP has been providing much needed food assistance to the tens of thousands of refugees who have fled fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile State to seek refuge in South Sudan. In July alone, WFP fed more than 105,000 refugees in settlements in Maban County.
The final distributions for the month were at the Batil camp, where 65-year-old Merse Idris Togun, a father of five children, was among the beneficiaries.
“We trekked for 20 days to reach a place of safety trying to survive biting hunger. Now we have received cereals, beans (lentils) and oil that has supported us to stay alive,” says Togun.