Siegfried Modola / REUTERS On a UN site near Bentiu, South Sudan, February 2017. 

Fear and Famine in South Sudan

Letter From Palorinya

Abraham Lubang’s tiny body is buried in a mound of dirt, more than 150 miles from his home in South Sudan. Surrounded by a pile of mismatched bricks, his grave is a few steps from the tent where he died on February 6, in a refugee settlement in northern Uganda. He was seven months old.

Less than a month earlier, Lubang’s parents, Abraham Wani and Mary Jande, woke up to the sound of gunshots in their village in South Sudan’s Lainya County. The family ran to a hiding place in the bush and began to walk toward the Ugandan border. Jande strapped Lubang to her back. The couple’s three other children, as young as two and three, traveled most of the way on foot. On January 15, six days after they left their village, the family crossed into Uganda and registered as refugees, Wani said. Lubang died less than three weeks later, weak from diarrhea and malnutrition.

Like most of their neighbors in this refugee settlement in Palorinya, Uganda, Lubang’s family fled attacks carried out by troops loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir. A power struggle between Kiir, a member of the Dinka ethnic group, and his former vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer, divided the national army along ethnic lines in December 2013, prompting soldiers from each faction to turn against each other in the capital of Juba. The fighting soon spread across the country, instigating a two-sided campaign of mass murder and rape. Estimates for the number of dead from the conflict range between 50,000 and 100,000, and some observers have speculated that the count could now be many tens of thousands higher. More than 1.5 million others have fled the country as refugees, and around 800,000 South Sudanese now live in northern Uganda. More than 570,000 of them have arrived since July.

Abraham Wani and Mary Jande at the grave of their son, Abraham Lubang, in Palorinya, Uganda, February 2017.

Abraham Wani and Mary Jande at the grave of their son, Abraham Lubang, in Palorinya, Uganda, February 2017.

An August 2015 peace deal between Kiir and Machar, brokered under the

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