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    Posted February 28, 2011 by
    Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Sudan
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
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    South Sudan Homecoming Part 2: Forgotten


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     RoseannD, an aid worker with Samaritan's Purse, is in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Sudan, telling the stories of people returning to South Sudan. She’s done numerous interviews and found some heartwarming stories. One woman she spoke to, Nyibok, says she's been waiting to start a new life with her family in her homeland.
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    I went to visit  Nyibok again today, who had arrived in the bus from Khartoum earlier in  the week. She was digging in her trunk, taking out her last few clean  items of clothing for her children. Her face opened into a smile as I  came near.


    “You remembered us.”


    She  has 6 children, 2 of which are twins (photo 2). She has a kindness  about her, and I was drawn to her immediately when I first met her. She  talked about her journey to Khartoum as a little girl, remembering  seeing others “slaughtered and caught with the bullet.” She lost her  mother and her father on the way. She has seen tragedy as a child that  she can never erase. Yet she carries herself with strength and grace.

    Her  family has settled right where the bus stopped, under a small acacia  tree. Her husband has gone to look for grass to build their shelter.


    I  asked her how her first night was back in her homeland. "We are happy  to be back. But it was very hard for the children,” she said. “Our  children are hungry, and we don’t have food. We were told there would be  food. We are almost out of what we brought with us,” she says with a  concerned tone, pointing to a dwindling bag of beans.


    Many  of the returnees are still sitting on their beds in the open,  surrounded by piles of their belongings. Some are resting in the heat of  the day with their children, others like Adut are braiding hair. As I  talk with them, they echo Nyibok’s sentiments.


    “It  is bad in Khartoum, I will tell you,” said Adut, concentrating on her  daughter’s hair as she skillfully braids each piece (photo 1). “We  couldn’t plant there, and we were paid badly. We are better to be here,  but we are worried about food. We have come with no food from the  north.” She pauses and looks up at me. “How can we feed our children? It  feels like we have been forgotten.”


    I  hear more accounts that the returnees were told that they would receive  food and water once they arrived, that there were many organizations to  take care of them until they settled in and began planting. But here,  that is not the case. There is not enough room to plant and harvest, and  the water situation is getting dire.


    In  another nearby returnee camp (video 9), a crowd gathers around the  water point. From afar, you can see the lines of jerry cans, extending  out from each side. Row after row they form, thirsty women and children  waiting their turn. Some let their jerry cans hold their place in line  as they roam around the camp to take care of other business. The number  of cans continues to grow as the sun gets higher and hotter.


    I count 323.


    I come upon Abuk (photo 5). She looks tired. She  is crouching down by the tap, her head resting on her hands as she  waits for the clean water to fill her jerry can. She is there with her  sister-in-law, Akol.


    I ask her how long she has been waiting her turn. She tells me she arrived at midnight. I look at my watch. It is 11:30 am. Nearly twelve hours later, and she is just beginning to fill up her  can. “We have been back from Khartoum for one month, and there are still  issues with the water, and with food. My whole day, every day, is taken  up by gathering water. And still, this will not be enough. I will have  to come back later. I can only carry so much.” Akol chimes in. “What  will we do in March and April when it gets up to 50 Celsius? We will  need more water…,” she looks away. “I worry that one day, there won’t be  enough water here.”


    Abuk  finishes one can and puts another down, the edge of her floral wrap  drags in the muddied water surrounding the tap as she readjusts the tap.


    “Much  is better now here in the south. We have freedom, all we did was work,  sleep, work, sleep in the north. But this water situation,” she pauses  as she tsk tsks and clicks her tongue, shaking her heard. “It is very  bad. When I left here, water was not a problem. When the enemy came in,  they destroyed our wells and water points- everything ruined. We hoped  coming back, things would be restored.”


    As  she continues another woman named Augom comes up and begins drinking  thirstily out of her jerry can (photo 8) . I find out her tribe is  indigenous to the area, and hid in the bush for many years during the  war. Her wells were ruined, and now she makes a two hour trek to come  here to fight for water among the returnees. She is pregnant.


    “The  returnees are my brothers and sisters. We are all ready for peace,  we’ve been so oppressed. But we are now concerned that many will die  from lack of water and food. What more can we handle?” she says.


    “It feels as though we’ve been forgotten.” It quiets for a moment, and others nod their heads.


    Forgotten.  This weighted word has found its way into the fabric of the  conversation in these communities and hangs overhead. You can almost  feel it lingering in the air.


    It  seems that this part of the story is just  beginning. As the days go by  and more returnees come home, the promises of adequate  water and areas  to grow food seem less realistic. There are organizations in this   region like Samaritan’s Purse who are drilling wells and working to meet  the needs  of the returnees, but there are restrictions set by local  officials as to what more aid groups can  do... restrictions intended to  make areas less liveable and permanent so  returnees have no choice but  to move into the outskirts of town to make their lives.


    But  with little resources, many are settling off main routes with nothing  but what they've carried to their name. Which begs the question: what  will be provided for them to rebuild their lives?


    I  watch Abok and Akul balance their containers on their heads and walk  toward their home, some 13 hours later from when they started (photo 7).  They will make the hour journey with just enough light in the day to  drop their water off, turn around, and do it again. Augom’s pregnant  silhouette is not far behind.


    I  promised these courageous women that I would tell others of the  challenges they are facing, in hopes that more would be allowed to be  done here for them.


    “I hope you will not forget the people of South Sudan and our children,” said Nyibok. “Please, do not forget us.

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