One Girl’s Story: Struggling to Overcome the Odds
Volume 1, Issue 3 / February 2009
A Sudanese girl attempted to commit suicide on Christmas Eve after facing enormous challenges; now, she and her younger sister remain alone, waiting for resettlement to Australia
The girl looks younger than her 19 years. Adut* is short, strong, slightly built, and dark in complexion. I have been waiting at her compound for her to come home from school. She greets me jovially and welcomes me into her well-made house with iron-sheet roofing. I introduce myself and the reason for my visit.
“I have many problems and they started back in Sudan in a place called Parjoks. We used to live in that place together with my mother,” Adut begins. She tells how her mother and one sister left for the garden one morning and never returned.
Adut has no idea what happened to her mother and sister, but continues to search. “I always ask people who go to Sudan and back to Kakuma whether they’ve seen her there, but they say the have never seen her.”
Adut and her younger sister were left to fend for themselves. A while after her mother’s disappearance, a man claiming to be a good Samaritan took Adut and her younger sister to a place called Rumbek and promised to care for them.
Soon after, the man started making advances at Adut. “He asked me to marry him so that he could continue giving us food. I declined but we could only eat if I complied with his sexual demand. I used to cry every day because that man used to torture me so much. He had another wife in another place and he could only offer us with food if I slept with him,” she recounts.
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After enduring two years of this treatment, Adut and her sister escaped from Rumbek and walked many kilometers on foot. They reached a large river where a ferry man required payment to cross in his canoe. “I had to sell some of my clothes since I had no money with me. I sold those clothes and we crossed the river,” she says.
A kind lorry driver saw Adut and her sister in tatters and sympathized with their plight. He brought them to Lokichoggio, Kenya, where they were assisted with a lift to Kakuma Refugee Camp. In January 2007, the two girls were left on the road near the Camp and began roaming aimlessly, not knowing where to go.
When they arrived, Adut and her sister had nowhere to stay. “We did not have somewhere to sleep and we had no one we knew. We spent several nights at other peoples’ houses.” Soon after, the girls began to help a Somali woman with domestic chores in order to get some food.
In May 2007, Adut followed a Somali woman who was going to collect her ration in Kakuma Two Phase Two, as she and her sister usually did. On reaching the food distribution centre, the woman disappeared in the midst of the crowd. “I did not see her again and since I was still new in the camp, I could not recall or trace my way back. At that time a Dinka woman asked me to carry her ration to her place of residence. I carried it and she gave me maize flour but I had no cooking items,” she says.
In July 2007, Adut began working as domestic help for a Sudanese family where she was paid 20 Ksh per day and was given some food. It was here that the wife of her employer encouraged Adut to seek help from UNHCR so that she could be recognized as a refugee, issued a ration card, and assigned to a shelter.
“At first I faced much resistance from the security guards [at UNHCR compound], but I never gave up. I kept on going there every day until I was allowed to go in and I narrated my ordeal to a UNHCR person. I was interviewed three times and then I was issued with a ration card,” she says.
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One night in April 2008, six men invaded Adut’s compound and broke into her house. The men demanded 10,000 Ksh from her. She cried and tried to call for help, but nobody came to assist her. As she had no money, the men-whom she says were from the local Turkana community-took all her rations and a small bag of clothes.
“Nobody, not even the neighbours, came out of their house to help me even after shouting out their names,” she laments. When nobody came to assist Adut, one of the men decided to rape her while the others held her hands and legs tightly. She cried with all her might. The next day she went to the camp hospital to seek medical treatment.
Adut has also been living with a heart problem that first developed in Sudan in 2004. “I have been given many types of tablets but I have not seen any change in my health. I went back to the main hospital in the camp and I was referred to the Kakuma Mission Hospital but I did not have money to go and get treatment there,” she says.
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On Christmas Eve in 2008, Adut became overwhelmed with life. “Life was becoming hard for me and my sister. When I go to the hospital, they chase me away saying that they have given me enough treatment. Food for family size two can hardly last us 10 days [of the 15-day cycle]. I don’t have any of my relatives and I don’t know whether I will ever meet with them for life.”
Adut knew that her neighbours and sister would be gone visiting friends on Christmas Eve and she would be left “to end my life silently and lonely.” She decided to take 14 heart medication capsules at once. She does not know the name of her medication: “Their names are difficult. I only take drugs, I don’t check their name.”
While her sister played outside, Adut closed the door of her home for privacy and swallowed the tablets. She immediately fell into a deep sleep from 9:00 p.m. until noon the next day.
“I decided to swallow those capsules, hoping that I would die,” she says. “But unfortunately I didn’t.”
When she awoke the next day, she was severely ill. “My body was very weak. I needed some drinking water but there was no one to give me. I gathered some little effort and crawled to open to door. The world around me was spinning round and round. I thought I was drunk,” she recalls.
A friend noticed her condition and called a security man who immediately called for an ambulance. Adut was rushed to the main hospital where she was admitted for nine days, from 25th December 2008 to 2 January 2009.
When she was discharged she was not offered psychological counseling or assistance. “I was treated like any other day,” she says. “There was no special treatment given to me.” To this day, no one offers special support for Adut and her young sister or monitors their situation.
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After the suicide attempt, Adut wanted to quit her education but I encouraged her to be strong and continue learning. She is now studying in class five at one of the primary schools in the camp.
Adut’s resettlement process is under way and she is waiting for the process to be completed so that she and her sister can be resettled to Australia. She says she does not know why she is being considered for resettlement, but the process began after the rape incident.
Today, Adut is more hopeful about her future and says she would like to become a doctor one day. “I’d like to be a doctor so that I can treat people with ailments like mine and other problems,” she says. The heart pain she suffers persists today, and she says no change is forthcoming. “I wait upon God to do His will,” she says.
*Not her real name.