Alex Joseph Lubari fled South Sudan with his wife Harriet and their daugthers Kristin, Mary and Josephine. For Alex, everything is now about them: "Now, my only wish is that they will be able to go to school and get an education. That's the most important thing in my world right now." Photos: Tobin Jones / Danish Refugee Council

Hunger and violence forced Alex and his family to flee

Thousands of people from South Sudan continue to flee out of the country in search of safety and food. Civil war and famine have plagued the country for years making the civilian population live in constant fear for their lives, says a family who has sought refuge in Uganda.

26.06.2017

"We came here in the hope of finding food. There is nothing to eat in South Sudan," says Alex Joseph Lubari.

After violent attacks on their villages forced Alex and his family to flee they attempted to stay in the area nearby hiding in the bush lands. But also this quickly became too dangerous.

"We tried to return to our fields to find something to eat, but doing so was with a great risk of running into soldiers. It's hard to outrun them and if they catch you, they will kill you."

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Alex is from the city of Yei in the southern part of South Sudan. Here he made a living from being a taxi driver taking people around on his motorcycle, a so-called ‘Boda Boda’, and from cultivating a small piece of land located a few kilometers outside the city.

"It became too dangerous. I would see people killed and lying dead in the streets. I did not want this to happen to my family," he says.

READ ALSO: IN UGANDA, A SMALL PLOT OF LAND AWAITS AT THE OF THE LONG FLIGHT

After spending some time hiding in the bush the family was finding it still more difficult to be able to afford to buy food. Using his last savings, and he made a difficult decision:

"I used the last money I had left in order for us to make the trip here."

Fearing for the lives of his daughters

Alex and his wife, Harriet, and their three daughters, began walking on foot to the Ugandan border. They had a bike which they used to carry their luggage. The daughters took turns sitting on the saddle of the bike while Alex pulled it.

The trip was long and difficult, because they had to stay away from the main roads, which were too dangerous to use, Alex explains.

"You don’t see any cars on the major roads. People are too scared to use them. If you are stopped by the wrong people, they will kill you,” he says.

“We had to go through the bush using small roads. When you move in a group, you have to send one person ahead in order to see if the road is safe. That person literally sacrifices himself. When he leaves, he’ll say:

"If I don’t come back, you'll have to find another way forward."

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Alex is both relieved and happy to have reached safety in Uganda.

He is now hoping that his family will get a bit of help here in the beginning until he finds a job and will be able to support them.

READ ALSO: STILL A TEENAGER BUT LIKE A 'MOTHER' TO HER SIBLINGS 

"Now we are putting our lives in someone else's hands. We are grateful for all the help we can get. We could not bring much with us – just some clothes, some stuff for cooking and the last bit of the flour we had left when we left our home."

For Alex, his main focus is to keep his three girls safe.

"I went here so they wouldn’t get killed in the bush. Now, my only wish is that they will be able to go to school and get an education. That's the most important thing in my world right now."

Africa's largest refugee crisis

With only a few years of exceptions, South Sudan has been plagued by war for decades. The country was granted independence from Sudan in 2011 thereby becoming the world's youngest nation. But only two years later, the country plunged into a brutal civil war, which is estimated to have cost more than 300,000 people their lives so far. At the same time more than two million have become internally displaced inside South Sudan and more than 1.5 million have fled to neighboring countries - primarily Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. Uganda alone has welcomed around 800,000 South Sudanese refugees.

During the summer of 2016, violent conflict erupted once again forcing people to flee. According to the UN, up to two thousand refugees arrive to Uganda every day. The Danish Refugee Council works in South Sudan and neighboring countries including Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia and provides assistance to the people who are seeking refuge outside the country.

Rhino camp - no ordinary refugee camp

Rhino camp in Uganda is not like most refugee camps. There are no rows of tents crammed into a tight space. Instead it covers a wider area, and refugees live in villages that are scattered throughout the area.  The neighboring villages are inhabited by native Ugandans who have lived there for generations. Rhino camp is divided into clusters of homesteads called villages including Ocea, a replica of the indigenous pattern of settlement. The villages are grouped according to proximity to constitute zones. Refugees in Rhino camp settlement and all other refugee settlements in West Nile and Uganda as a whole have access to plots of land for shelter and farming.