It's over a month now since I arrived in Juba after I
escaped gunfire and panic in the town of Bor by fleeing into the bush. Coming
to South Sudan's capital was like stepping out of hell into paradise. Thankfully,
for me, the dire situation of living in the bush without shelter, electricity,
food and clean drinking water is now over.
I am starting a good new life, albeit from scratch. Sitting
on a chair, sleeping in a room with concrete walls and a roof, enjoying internet,
electricity, clean drinking water – it feels very far from the hideouts where I
But while I sleep in my bed among the lights of Juba, I
can’t help think about my fellow colleagues at BBC Media Action and the project
we were working on when the conflict erupted.
Based in the state capitals of each of South Sudan 10 states,
our team was busy producing radio programmes to encourage girls’ education. But
then the fighting started.
The crisis has forced some of my colleagues to return to
their home villages. Others have fled further afield, to Nairobi and Kampala.
Only a few have been able to remain at their bases.
In the days - and now weeks - since the fighting started, not
all the phone calls I've made to my colleagues have been answered. Two
colleagues have still not been able to respond.
They both work for our girls' education project in Unity and
Upper Nile state, areas particularly affected by the fighting between
government and rebel forces.
I managed to talk to the husband of one of them – and he
gave me some hope. He said his wife is among hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
civilians who fled Leer in Unity State to hide in the swamps that surround the
But I haven’t been able to reach my second colleague at all.
In the first weeks of fighting, Cassie Biggs, who manages
our girls' education project, was able to reach him by Skype and phone. He told
her how, in the chaos of fleeing the town of Malakal in Upper Nile state, he
was separated from his wife and two children for nearly two weeks. While he
took refuge in the northern town of Fangak, he had no contact with them at all
– their phones rang unanswered.
Then, by chance, his cousin, who works with UNICEF in the
displacement camp in Malakal, spotted them. They had fled into the bush, where
they were without food and clean water for several days, before getting up the
courage to return to Malakal and seek refuge in the UN camp there. They were
well, he said, although one of the children was severely malnourished.
Unfortunately the fighting then intensified around Malakal
again, phone networks were cut and we lost contact with him - until a few days
ago, when by chance he was able to Skype with one of our senior editors in Juba.
It was a fleeting note that said he was fine, which is enough, for now.
Our team is praying hard for our friends' safe return.