Joseph Chol Pakwan - a key focal person for Universal Intervention and Development Organization (UNIDOR) South Sudan - shares his story on the conflict in Sudan and the role of UNIDOR in supporting fathers and families.
Ten years ago, we were living in South Sudan, but I took my family to Sudan when the conflict started in South Sudan in December 2013 and escalated to all the countrywide. My family were staying in Renk County in the northern part of the country, and when the conflict erupted nearby, my family sought safety. Since then, they have been staying in Sudan. This story is about the conflict which started in Sudan on 15th April, 2023, and how it has affected me and my family.
Before the Conflict in Sudan;
In the last ten years, my family have been living safely and they were getting all the necessary requirements, such as schooling for my kids, and specialized medical attention if they got sick. Money transfer was easy when the monthly allocation funds for them were due and, because of this safety and ease, my mind was very calm. I continued with my work and perform my duties with no stress or any fear.
After the conflict in Sudan;
When the war erupted on 15th April 2023 between the Sudan Armed forces and Rapid Support forces in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, all the citizens residing in Khartoum assumed that the conflict would end ASAP. When the fighting continued and escalated to different parts of the town as well as other parts of the country, then fear entered into the civilians, and some families started hiring cars to get out of the country.
Hearing this information about the escalating conflict – and being a father caring for his family who are staying in the conflict-affected country – disturbed my thinking and my mood. I was thinking and worrying a lot about how to lift my family out of the conflict zone, as all the systems were interrupted – there was no way for a money transfer, and all banking systems stopped. That is a major problem facing any father or husband whose family is still in the war torn zone. Another major worry is about safety, as rumors spread about those who managed to evacuate their families – the rumors were that there were war opportunists who robbed the evacuating families and abandoned them in unknown places.
Being a father or husband who is far away from the family during a war will affect your thinking and your work, as your mood can change without warning. This can be noticed by your colleagues who will keep asking: ‘are you ok?’
After all these challenges, with the grace of our almighty creator, he sent a helper: UNIDOR. Through the helper I managed to send money and my family started their journey towards a safer place. When they reached safety, this is finally when I breathed a sigh of relief from the tension.
Looking to the future;
Despite the fact that they are now in a safe place, after the terrifying threats they encountered during the Sudan conflict - hearing the sound of heavy artilleries, jet fighters over the residential areas - these brought about fears amongst my family. They kept on calling me, making me irritable, unable to concentrate on my work, until I managed to get them lifted out of the county (although South Sudan remains a fragile state). The concern now in my mind as a Father and Husband is the future of the kids. When they were studying in Khartoum, some of them were studying all their subjects in Arabic and some in English, but now in South Sudan the syllabus is different from what they were getting in Sudan.
Moving forward, the support I think might help fathers/husbands to care for their family in the conflict… The fathers/husbands will be traumatized with the ongoing conflicts if their kids are in the conflict zone, therefore the first support to render to them is assuring and counseling the fathers/husband psychologically - that to say Psychological Support Services - by any service provider for such activities in any areas where the conflict occurs.
Author Bio: Joseph Chol Pakwan is the Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) focal person working for Universal Intervention and Development Organization (UNIDOR) South Sudan, developing gender policy and supporting the team in monitoring of implementation of the GRRIPP project in Mayendit, Koch and Guit in Unity State. He is a graduate with a health background, worked as MEAL person for a long time and contributed to many data collections for research or assessment, such as for the GRRIPP policy. His interest, as well as that of the organization, is to serve and save life, through contributing to ending suffering if the situation allows to do so.