Akec Tut, “We are depending on the leaves of the trees”

Akec Tut is among 110,000 civilians who fled Abyei when the contested region on the border between Sudan and South Sudan was occupied by Khartoum’s troops in May 2011.

Too scared to return home with her five children, Tut has since been living about an hour’s drive south from Abyei, in Nyintar, a village in South Sudan, which gained independence in July 2011 and which, because of myriad internal armed conflicts, poor harvests and a closed border with Sudan, will only produce half the food it needs this year.

“Abyei was invaded by Sudan Armed Forces, that’s why I left.

“I heard the gunshots early in the morning, then I was also seeing bullets in the red light [of dawn] around 5am. I saw the crops set on fire, and even the houses were burnt down.

“If Abyei has peace then there is no problem to stay there, I will go back to Abyei.

“The life here in Nyintar is so difficult after leaving Abyei. We get by, by selling some of our possessions [to buy food].

“When some traders come around with some dura [sorghum] or maize, you just go and buy, and that is what we are depending on, and if you have relatives you go and beg them for something.

“That’s why my husband has gone to Agok - to ask some relatives to give something. It’s only when you go to relatives, he or she can give you a little money to buy some grain.

“If you get something now and then that you can depend on - that is our diet.

“If I get seeds, that is what would make my life OK because I could cultivate, and if I have access to a harvest I could sell the remainder and change my diet if possible. But for now, we are depending on the leaves of the trees and the fruit of lalop [tree].”