Renk, 10 May 2023 – It had barely been a month since 36-year-old Caroline had started her new job in Sudan as a domestic worker when the fighting broke out in Sudan. During the first few hours, Caroline was optimistic that it would not last, and she stayed put in Khartoum where she was living and working as a house manager. Reality hit two days later when the fighting continued, prompting her employer’s decision to move.
This would mark the beginning of an eight-day journey out of Khartoum; one she is glad is now behind her. She sits next to her luggage at the International Organization for Migration's (IOM) transit centre in Renk, a South Sudanese town close to the border with Sudan and recounts the story of her flight from Sudan.
First, Caroline and her employer had left for Atbara, a city north of Khartoum, where they stopped for six days. Back home in Kenya, the fear and anxiety of Caroline’s family grew with each passing day.
“It got to a point where I had to constantly lie to my family to keep them calm; my children are young, and I was not going to put them through trauma by describing what was happening here,” she says.
Meanwhile, in Atbara, her employers were planning their exit as fighting intensified. The family offered her USD 100 for transportation, and the address of the Kenyan embassy scribbled on a piece of paper and let her go.
The only way to leave Atbara was by taxi, the rates of which had already almost tripled. What would have been a one-hour journey from Atbara to the embassy under normal circumstances, took her nearly two days.
“The driver kept going in circles until it was dark, he finally suggested that I spend the night and proceed the following day,” she recalls.
Amidst the chaos, taxi drivers had been taking advantage of vulnerable people trying to flee. Her arrival at the embassy a day later came as a relief as she met others like her who were waiting to depart.
The embassy organized transportation for her and 54 others, which took about 11 hours across the 400-kilometre journey to the border with South Sudan. Alongside other Kenyans and Ugandans, Caroline crossed the Wounthou–Juda border into South Sudan.
Her arrival in Renk meant she and the rest of the group were one step closer to seeing their loved ones. The worst was finally behind them, and her spirits were back up again.
Since the beginning of the response, IOM in South Sudan has supported 320 third-country nationals (TCNs) with transportation from the Juda border point to Renk and then to Paloch airport for onward movement to their home countries. They include people from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, America, Britain, Burundi, Nigeria, Somalia, Australia, Cameroon, India, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among others.
Caroline is among the 54 leaving for Nairobi on 10 May and she cannot hide her joy.
“I just want to see my children, that is my priority,” Caroline says with a wide smile.
What she thought was a tall order in the last few days would become reality – she will be with her family again.