South Sudan: a life reduced to fourteen rusty cups

Stacked neatly in a pyramid, fourteen rusted metal cups represent all that is left of 11 year-old Regina’s life. Belongings carefully guarded and transported some 2,000 kilometres back from Khartoum, Sudan in 2011 – to mark the family’s new life in the hopeful new country of South Sudan – have all been destroyed.

Regina lives in Torit, Eastern Equatoria, in the southeast of South Sudan. It is an area known for its rugged landscape, green fields and abundance of vegetables and crops. Described as the ‘green belt’ and ‘food basket’ of the country, the area has largely remained free of the conflict that has ravaged the rest of South Sudan for the past three years. That is until now.

On the morning of July 11th, Regina’s young life changed forever. When her family and their neighbours heard firing they all ran to the nearby UN peacekeeping base for safety. They spent 6 days there, in the open and eating only porridge. When they finally came home, they found that their house and their neighbour’s house had been completely burnt down during the fighting between different armed groups in the area.

The fire did not just destroy their home, it also destroyed their source of income and livelihood. Like many families living within Torit town, Regina’s mother has been unable to access her field just outside of town since July. Continuing insecurity on the outskirts of town and attacks on civilians means people are too scared to move.

After Regina’s father died in 2009 her mother had been looking after the family by selling off selected possessions and farming from their nearby field. Now, with all these things gone, and no other way to support the family, Regina’s mother and oldest sister have been forced to travel to nearby villages in search of work and/or food. They have been gone for the past three days, leaving Regina alone to care for her two youngest siblings. The children sleep on the floor of the small building they used to use as a kitchen, and they rely on the kindness of their neighbours to give them food.

Over one hundred homes in Torit town were burnt down during the July fighting and countless others had their possessions looted. Attacks on civilians occur daily in the area and the humanitarian organization trying to help them, with many of the neighbouring areas inaccessible because of insecurity.

CARE plans to help families affected with relief items such as cooking items, mats and jerry cans as well as livelihoods support so they can recover and try and rebuild a life. With hyper-inflation plaguing the country and insecurity on the roads which are the main routes for goods and produce to the town, prices have skyrocketed and goods have become scarcer. For families like Regina’s, who can no longer harvest their own crops, even if they get cash for their labour, they are being priced out of the market.

The people of South Sudan are a generous people – sharing what little food they have and helping their neighbours – but as the economic situation worsens, and with over a quarter of the population living without enough to eat; they are finally running out of things to share.

Regina’s mother moved back to Torit – her birthplace – in 2011, full of hope for the new nation of South Sudan. Now, just over 5 years on, for many families such as Regina’s, there is little hope left.

Learn more about CARE's response to the conflict in South Sudan.

You can help CARE deliver life-saving support to families like Regina's in South Sudan.