Tafisa Nyattie, 30, has been living in a Protection of Civilians (POC) camp in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba, since civil war broke out in the country in 2013. I met her while visiting one of the camps, run by the United Nations, during a visit to Juba.
I was immediately struck by her calm confidence and evident determination, her gait at once deliberate and measured. We met her at one of the camp entrances early one morning as she prepared to head out for the day.
The food rations she receives are not enough to feed her six children, so each day, she leaves the POC site to collect firewood in the bush to sell at the camp’s market. The extra money means she can meet her children’s most basic needs: some milk, a hot meal, supplies for school. Sometimes, she walks three hours away and three back to get enough firewood for the day.
But as a Nuer woman — an ethnic group that has been targeted by the country’s ruling party — leaving the camp puts her at risk. She described being beaten by members of South Sudan’s military forces, which left her leg badly injured. The men attempted to rape her, she said, and others in the group she was with were arrested and abused. She couldn’t collect firewood for two months after that. But she saw her children suffer, and knew she had to go back.
“You just go and you don’t know if you will come back to your children,” Tafisa said.