Mary Mayik Lual is a 32-year-old single mother of five, who worked as a cleaner at the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Wau Shilluk, South Sudan. When the fighting started she was forced to flee with the rest of the town’s population to Kodok and then to Aburoch, where MSF runs emergency operations.
On February 3, 2017, I was on duty in the hospital as the fighting drew closer to the town. I could hear the sound of artillery and gunfire. In the afternoon, I decided to leave the hospital and flee north with the rest of the population. As soon I managed to find my two children I left. After walking for many hours that night, I reached a village, some 13 kilometers [about 8 miles] from Wau Shilluk. In the chaos, I left behind my mother, who couldn't walk.
The next day, we continued walking until we reached a village 20 kilometers [about 12.4 miles] further on. At that point, I decided to go back and find my mother. It was frightening to return. Thankfully, I found her walking on the road. I was so happy to see her.
With my two children and my 70-year-old mother, I moved first to Kodok and then to Aburoch which is some 80 kilometers [about 50 miles] to the north of Wau Shilluk. I was so worried that the fighting would catch up with us as my mother and children were unable to walk faster. There was no transport available.
I did not have a chance to pack food, and there was no water available. I decided to walk along the river so that we could get some water, but my younger child fell sick during our escape. Both my sick son and my mother were too exhausted to walk.
In Aburoch, we spend the days and nights in the open as we have nothing to use as shelter. One family shared a piece of plastic sheeting with us. There isn’t enough water, and we have been waiting for food for several weeks. As the queues are so long and you have to wait for hours, I fetch water at night when the hand-pump is free. I fear for my safety when I am out at night.
This is not the first time that I have had to flee my home. In 2014, I was living in Malakal when it was attacked. It was a frightening time, and I used a canoe to escape and reach the west bank of the Nile. There were many of us fleeing that day, and a boat full of women and children sank while crossing the river. Many people died.
I lost my brother during the fighting in Malakal. During our escape, I also got separated from three of my children, and it took me months to find them in Wau Shilluk. I don’t want that to happen again.
As I was afraid of losing my children again, I sent three of them to Sudan where I know they are safe. I don´t know where I will go next. I have been forced to move five times since the start of this war, and I am tired of running.