Running from violence, Rose gave birth by the roadside

Help families affected by the South Sudan violence


Rose was eight-and-a-half months pregnant and just widowed when she had to run from armed men.

She and her children were fleeing the violence that has overwhelmed South Sudan since December 2013. They are just a few of the 1.3 million people who have been displaced from their homes so far.

Her labour pains started when she was running. Rose gave birth by the roadside as her four children looked on, terrified.

Women stopped and helped her. Baby Johanes arrived screaming but healthy and strong, into a world that is anything but. Rose's husband had died just a few days earlier, killed in front of his family as they tried to escape the fighting.

Before all this, Rose's husband had a good job and was able to provide for his family. She says they had a simple, clean and happy home and were well fed.

Now Johanes sleeps soundly next to Rose, nestled in a plastic bowl. He is two weeks old and still looks healthy, but she is afraid for his future.

"My breast milk is dry, and I can't feed him properly. At night, I can't sleep because I am so hungry. I try to reassure the children, but I am scared," says Rose.

South Sudan is also in the grip of a severe food crisis, driven largely by the conflict. More than 3.7 million people need emergency food and parts of the country are at high risk of famine.

People like Rose and her baby Johanes will be the most vulnerable to severe malnutrition - it is estimated that up to 50,000 children under five years old may die by the end of 2014 if treatment is not available soon.

World Vision is working to deliver life-saving food aid, as well as pre-positioning aid supplies for the months to come and helping communities to recover their livelihoods.​

Baby Johanes sleeps, nestled in a plastic bowl. Rose is worried that she can't feed him properly. Photo: Nadene Robertson/World Vision

In some ways Rose is one of the fortunate ones

She and her children have found shelter in a former school building with other widows and orphans. They have banded together for protection and sleep on the concrete floor of an old classroom.

Since the conflict started, more than 3,300 children have been registered as orphaned, separated or unaccompanied by their parents. It is feared the numbers are actually much higher, as there are many areas of South Sudan that have not been reached by aid agencies.

It is customary for extended family members to take responsibility for children who lost their parents, and thankfully, this is often still the case. However, decades of conflict have eroded the ability of families to cope with the increased number of orphaned and separated children as well as their own, and some children have been left to fend for themselves. Those are the ones who are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

That's why World Vision is trying to scale up efforts to find and reunite children with their families. It is also important to provide quality care in the meantime - preferably by supporting extended families and following up to ensure the well-being of those families and the children in their care.

We need your support to ensure the children of South Sudan can enjoy what most children in the developed world take for granted: enough food to eat, a secure home to live in, the opportunity to go to school and the chance to live in peace.

You can learn more about the crisis and donate to World Vision's South Sudan Crisis Appeal.