Skip to main content

Newsletter block in header



  • English
  • Kiswahili

You are here

“There is not enough water; the community is too big here.”

Martha* has lived in the UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Malakal, South Sudan since 2014

Martha, a pseudonym, is a 27-year-old woman living in the Malakal Protection of Civilian (PoC) site, in north-east South Sudan [ © MSF / Igor Barbero ]

27-year-old Martha * has lived in the UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Malakal since 2014.  She was brought to the MSF hospital in the PoC site at the end of March as she was feeling unwell and had serious breathing problems . In the emergency room, the medical staff saw that her oxygen level was very low and diagnosed her with pneumonia. Despite the severity of her condition, she improved after a week of treatment.

"I was born in Khartoum, Sudan´s capital, and lived there. We came to South Sudan following my mother’s marriage to my step-father and ahead of South Sudan’s declaration of independence in 2011. 

We had a flat and I was studying in Khartoum, but we had to exchange our lives there for new ones in Malakal city. At first, I continued studying in Malakal to earn my secondary certificate. I was preparing for my exams, focusing on economics and commerce, when the fighting started at the end of 2013. 

When the conflict began we went to our ancestral village (near Malakal town) and stayed there for about a month. Afterwards, we returned to Malakal, but decided to move to the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site because the situation was very dangerous. It was very difficult emotionally for me to flee. There was heavy fighting in the town. I heard bullets for the first time and saw a woman trapped in a neighbouring house that was on fire. I had never seen anything like this. It was terrible. 

In those early days in the PoC site, there were no water pumps and it was difficult to go to the river to fetch water. The compound was very crowded, there was no drainage system, and the shelters were poorly built. It was not easy to cook proper food. 

There are 12 people in my family here, including my father, mother, step-mother and several siblings and children. I have a 12-year-old son called Samuel and my smaller child is nine months old. I am separated from my husband. 

Compared to what it was like in the beginning, our shelter now is better, but it is still bad. We still face many challenges. One is hunger; you may have sorghum grain, but you don’t know where to grind it or you may not have money to take it to the grinding mill. Even if you have money to grind the sorghum, you may not have water to cook it. There is not enough water; the community is too big here. 

The communities living here have disintegrated; some have family members missing. Some have family members here, while others took refuge in Sudan, or are scattered through other places. Some of my brothers and relatives are in refugee camps there. It is very difficult to contact them. Often, we don’t have money or there is no mobile network. 

If the peace agreement doesn´t hold, more disintegration may happen, bringing with it further difficulties. I hope it holds. I would like to continue my studies"

COVID-19 Coronavirus

Most of the world's countries have reported cases of coronavirus disease COVID-19 and MSF teams in over 70 countries are now racing to respond to the pandemic.  

Find out more  

Change country