Garranng opens the grass fence that surrounds his wife's grave. Photo: Layton Thompson/Tearfund
6 July 2011
Gently pulling back a panel of grass fencing, Garranng Dor shows us the grave where his wife is buried.
His tall frame stands silently and looks down at the freshly dug plot, unmarked apart from a pile of red rocks.
Outwardly, only Garranng’s glassy eyes reveal something of his deep mourning for his wife of 24 years, Agak Kuek, who died just four days ago from a TB-related illness.
Garranng, 45, is now not only facing bringing up his six children alone but also doing so in difficult and dire circumstances.
For the last three months, he has been living in a camp outside the southern Sudanese town of Aweil in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state for people returning from the north of Sudan.
He arrived after a long journey with few possessions and now lives in a small hut made from grass - alongside 8,000 others.
Unwelcomingly and uninviting sums up the state of the land around them which is parched and dusty.
Garranng’s wife is not the only one to die here. Residents tell us another dozen people have succumbed since they arrived over the last few months.
Garranng Dor and his children. Photo: Layton Thompson/Tearfund
As well as the conditions and his own grief, Garranng also has to deal with his youngest child’s illness.
Mareng’s lies lifeless on a metal framed bed, his body deprived of breast feeding and weakened by diarrhoea and sickness, shallow breathing the only sign of movement.
Two beds with flaking paint, thin mattresses and ill-fitting sheets are among the few possessions the family brought with them during the four day bus journey from the north of Khartoum to the south.
Garranng said, ‘When we arrived at the camp there was just bush here. We sold two of our beds to buy grass to make a shelter and I cut wood to make shelter.
‘When we came here we were given 15kg of sorghum. We were told we would get extra food but that didn’t happen.
‘To get food now, I cut trees down and sell them as firewood. But today we have no food. My wife died four days ago and because one of my children is sick, I cannot go to find wood.
One meal a day
‘My wife had TB. I used to be able to afford the drugs she needed. But here the hospital is far away and I don’t have enough money for drugs.’
Nor does he have money for enough food. The family is surviving mostly on one meal a day.
So why did he move south?
‘We are southern Sudanese; when I heard there will be separation, we decided to come to our country.’
With the passing of his wife, death is clearly at the forefront of Garranng’s sorrowful mind.
But dabbing his son Mareng’s parched lips with a cloth soaked in some orange juice, Garranng tells us he wants to work his way out of this desperate situation and to be a farmer.
‘No one has helped us,’ he asserts with quiet dignity and composure. ‘But God helped us get here and God will continue to give us support by sending people like you to help us.’