Family head of 13 at 13

Cosmas is a bright thirteen year old girl with a big responsibility. She is the head of her family, a family that has 13 members between the age of three and 13 years olds. The family is made of six children from Cosmas’s father’s side and 6 from her mother’s side. They are now in Rhino camp, Arua district, Uganda.

From Uganda


By Ane Norup

“My parents used to work together in Malakal, my dad as a Doctor and my mom as a Chef at the government hospital in Malakal in South Sudan, while me and my siblings would stay with our blind grandfather in Juba, where we also went to school” Cosmas explains.

She continues her story by telling that both of her parents were killed when the rebels attacked Malakal recently following the outbreak of violence in South Sudan. Cosmas came to know about the death of her parents from one of her fathers’ friends who managed to escape the rebel attack in Malakal.

“After the death of our parents we still stayed with our grandfather but one night I heard shootings around the house, and realized that we were being attacked. I had to escape with my siblings but we did not manage to bring our grandfather when we fled the house.”

She believes that her grandfather has also been shot dead. Cosmas became the family head as she is the eldest of her siblings. Cosmas says that as she and her siblings were escaping the violence and killings in Juba, they met a woman who was also escaping. This lady helped the young family as she guided Cosmas and her siblings first to Yei where they spent three days, and then to Koboko in Uganda where the lady took Cosmas and her siblings to the reception centre for newly arriving refugees. The family was registered and the helpful lady left them, as she was on her way to Nairobi. Cosmas and her siblings were then taken from Koboko to Ocea reception centre which is managed by the DRC in partnership with UNHCR.

Cosmas explains, “as we escaped my grandfathers’ house in a hurry, and as we had travelled for many days, we had very little clothes and nothing else when we reached”.

Upon arrival, the DRC staff discovered that three of the youngest siblings needed medical treatment, thus they are currently being treated at a nearby medical centre. The family is currently staying in Rhino camp, Arua district where they are being supported by the DRC community services and protection team.

For this young family, the fleeing has stopped and perhaps the danger of being executed is over, but the journey to a life as a family has just begun. Though Cosmas is a strong and bright girl, the future for her and her siblings seems uncertain and unpredictable.