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Sudan: "My house will be half full"

The mother of two young MSF patients tells her story of losing three children to measles on the long journey to safety from Khartoum

A mother sits outside with her children—MSF patients—as they prepare meals at thet Renk Civil Hospital

South Sudan 2023 © Evani Debone/MSF

Since April 15, millions of people have been forced from home due to fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces in Sudan. This includes more than seven million internally displaced and over 738,000 fleeing across the border to neighboring countries including Chad, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. Among them are South Sudanese returnees—refugees originally from South Sudan who have returned to the country after previously seeking refuge in Sudan. 

One of those returnees is Marta Kaliba, the mother of two children who are receiving care for malnutrition at a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) facility in Renk, South Sudan.  Since July, MSF has admitted 232 patients for malnutrition and treated 282 cases of measles requiring hospital care. 

When we arrived in Alagaya camp in Sudan, the children started to fall sick. They had measles. The baby was the first to get a fever and after one week, the three-year-old and later the nine-year-old. They died.   

I had to bury my three children far from home. Far from anyone they knew. Far from where we were going.   

As I continued my journey to South Sudan, I arrived at Renk, where I discovered that my eight-year-old son and my five-year-old daughter were malnourished. The change in food, the long journey, and the grief have been arduous for me and my family. I have lost three children, and the other two are fighting for their lives.  

Sudan crisis response

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Every day at the hospital, I find the strength to look after them. I cook what I can with the other mothers who also have their children at the hospital. We sit under a tree. The other children play; they climb trees, and I can't wait for my children to be among them. Many families here struggle for food and water. Hardly anyone has a proper shelter.  

As soon as my children feel better, my husband will join us and we will continue our journey, maybe to Malakal. I will try to contact my extended family in South Sudan, but I am uncertain of the future. We would need a lot of courage and help to survive during the coming difficult days to start a new life in South Sudan.   

My house will still be half full.     

Your fellow human being, 

Marta Kaliba

Sudan crisis response