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Despite War and Famine, Young People in South Sudan Have Not Given Up

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When I was born, 18 years ago, my country did not exist. Sudan and South Sudan were all one big nation, the largest in Africa, but already there was always fighting between the south and the rest. My family left our home in Akobo state, one of the most violent areas and moved to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, which was much safer.

When the referendum in 2011 created a new country of South Sudan, we were very happy that finally we could return home and live in peace. In 2012, I left Khartoum for the last time along with my mother and brother to move to Juba, the new capital of South Sudan, 1,200 miles away.

I was full of hope for my nation's future and Juba was at the heart of it. Here I was to keep pace with the bustling, rapidly developing new country.

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I have muscular dystrophy which means my muscles are getting weaker as I get older, so it can be hard for me to move about. We moved to Juba because I would be able to get crutches there that would allow me to walk more easily. I have always been very mobile, despite my disability, and my new crutches really helped me to move around. I hoped that Juba would be the last place I would have to move. My family began to build our lives there.

On December 15th 2014, I was at home in the Lologo neighborhood when we heard gunfire. We didn't know what was going on or where the shooting was coming from, so we stayed in our home. But the firing continued through the night.

By the morning, we knew we had to leave.

We ended up having to leave with nothing. Just the clothes we were wearing, not even our documents, nothing. At first we found shelter in a nearby church. We stayed there for two days hoping we would be safe. But then my brother heard that 15 people had been killed nearby. Afraid for our lives my whole family ran as quickly as we could with my crutches to the UN base in Juba.

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At first the protected compound we moved into was nearly empty. We were given blankets, and some food and water rations. Since that first night, the site has grown to over 14,000 people.

I know if there is peace, we can go back. But while there is no peace, we will just have to remain here.

A family left our compound to get some extra food for their children from a market. They believed that if they went out in large numbers they would be safe. I heard that they have not been seen since then. Some say they were killed. This is why I think I cannot leave until there is some peace. I can still move with my crutches but they are getting worn out, I need to repair them but there is no way of going outside because I fear I might be killed.

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Today I work in the International Medical Corps clinic inside one of the aircraft hangars on the base, near where I live. The clinic is focused on women's health - mums, women who are pregnant and new babies. The midwives, nurses and doctors I work with do consultations before and after birth and perform safe deliveries as well as leading health and mother care classes for others chased from their communities by violence.

Some of the pregnant women and young mothers who visit our clinic are shy or nervous but I register patients, take their vital signs, get their medical histories, and direct them to additional medical care. They are usually more relaxed by the time I have finished with them.
People are helping each other every day. When you don't have something, your neighbour will give you half of it, because they know it is so hard on your own.

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We are trapped- we young people need education, and then we can enjoy ourselves. I have many friends in the compound and we are happy - but they will not allow us to move outside. We are facing war and possibly a famine, but we are not helpless, many of us are working to make things better.
My family are alive - we are happy enough, I just hope one day things will get better.

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Mary is a First Responder, one of many trained by International Medical Corps. Her story is just one of the amazing tales of survival and bravery that are celebrated in the First Responders campaign - a collection of stories supported by the European Commission to show the lifesaving impact of building resilience in communities.