GAMBELA, Ethiopia (AFP) ― Nyayoul Gach was first driven from her home in South Sudan because of violence, but escaped into Ethiopia because of hunger, unable to feed her five children who were rapidly wasting away.
Now in the caked mud settlements of western Ethiopia, she faces further misery: hunger and disease stalk the crowded camps, and she wonders whether her life is better than the one she fled in war-ravaged South Sudan.
“I’m really worried about my family because I’m here wondering what to do for survival,” she said, clutching her wailing baby who has malaria.
“I would like to go to South Sudan but the situation is not good, but if the situation is not good here either, then I might as well go back,” she said grimly.
The civil war, which started as a political feud between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, has already displaced more than 1.5 million people like Gach, and the numbers are expected to grow as famine sets in.
Aid agencies say $1 billion is needed to feed and care for the mushrooming refugee population, already underserved in the rapidly growing camps.
Bayang Lual said he came to Ethiopia in search of food, like many of the 166,000 other refugees who have poured into the country since fighting erupted in December.
“When the war broke out, every house, every home was burned down, so all the food was destroyed. We didn’t have anything to eat so that’s why we ran,” said the emaciated father of three, recounting that his seven-year-old son was killed in the fighting.