MINGKAMAN — Fighting in South Sudan has disrupted livelihoods and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. In the Lakes State community of Mingkaman, where WFP and its partners are providing assistance to more than 95,000 people, many of the internally displaced people (IDPs) are longing for a return to peace, to enable them to grow their own crops.
When fighting first erupted in her home village of Jalle, in Jonglei State, Achuol Yaae refused to flee with the other villagers. She and her four children survived.
But when a second wave of violence returned to the village, the 28-year-old says she "saw death staring" at her, so she fled with her children to an island in the White Nile river.
"Many people died as they jumped into the water to escape the shooting," Yaae said. "Others were killed by gun-shots, I am happy to be alive with my children but it is sad that this war is happening."
After three weeks on the island with little to eat, she joined other women and children to travel to Mingkaman, in Lakes State, where they had heard that relief organisations were providing food, health care, water and shelter. They walked for five days to get to Bor, the capital of Jonglei, about 50 kilometers south of her village. From there, Yaae said, they took the boats to cross the river to Mingkaman.
Mingkaman was once a sleepy little fishing village on the banks of the White Nile. But the town in Awerial County is now a sprawling settlement of tens of thousands of people who have fled fighting elsewhere, mainly in Jonglei.
In front of her straw hut, Yaae pounds grains of sorghum with a mortar and pestle to prepare a traditional meal. She is among the more than 95,000 people receiving food assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners, Oxfam and Joint Aid Management (JAM).
Throughout the country, WFP and its partners have so far provided more than 700,000 people affected by the conflict with lifesaving food and nutrition support, with donor support from the United States, Canada, the European Union, Italy, Germany, Australia, and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
"WFP is giving us food, which is fine, but for how long will they continue feeding us?" Yaae asked. "What we want is peace so we can go back to our home, plant our own food and have our children drink milk."
"People see my son and they say he looks good [healthy] - it is because he was drinking fresh milk from our cows," Yaae added as she held up her youngest child.
But amidst the repeated outbreaks of violence, Yaae's family lost their cattle and most of their other livestock. Her husband, who had also come to Mingkaman, decided to return to protect the family's two remaining goats, she said.
Stories of how the conflict is disrupting livelihoods abound in Mingkaman, where boats continue to arrive daily, carrying more people who are escaping the violence that has gripped the young nation since December.
Achuol Garang, a 43-year-old mother of six, arrived from Duk County in early April having lost all her property after renewed fighting at the end of March. Her biggest concern is the education of her children.
"Now my children are out of school; I want my children to go to school," said Garang. "There is a school here but I don't know if it is as good as the one at home. There [at home], they [WFP] were giving the children food at school and that helped them to stay and get an education," she added.
"I just want all the communities to live in harmony and peace like before," said Garang, who is pregnant with her seventh child. "If we continue fighting like this what will be the future for our children?"