Long Walk to Safety

Shannon Jensen of the US won second prize at the Days Japan International Photojournalism Awards 2013 for her work on refugees of Sudan’s Blue Nile State
Tagged Under | refugees | Shannon Jensen | Sudan
Saddam Omar, a 25-year-old man from Pi, walked at least eight days to reach the border
Zaida John, a woman in her 20s from Gabanit, walked one month to reach the border
Gasim Issa, a man in his 50s from Igor, walked 20 days to reach the border
Aradia Sheikh, a 6-year-old girl from Al Ahmer, walked at least 16 days to reach the border
Musa Shep, a 2-year-old boy from Gabanit, travelled 20 days to reach the border
Hamid Absalah, a 6-year-old boy from Mugom, walked 20 days to reach the border
Makka Kalfar, 7, from Buk, walked an unknown number of days to reach the border
Muhammed Hajana, a man in his 30s from Tiful, walked 30 days to reach the border
Jamun Mam, a woman in her 70s from Iferi, walked ‘many’ days to reach the border

Thirty thousand men, women and children from Sudan’s Blue Nile State sought an end to nine months of terror and trauma by crossing the border into neighbouring South Sudan in June last year. They joined a population of 70,000 refugees who preceded them in fleeing an organised military campaign to crush northern remnants of the Southern liberation movement.

Many of the new arrivals had never left the vicinity of their villages before shelling, bombardment, and gunmen drove them away. They fled from shrublands to nearby hills and back again, often stuck behind enemy lines, before they were finally able to reach the border, a journey made perilous by the dearth of water and food as well as the risk of ambush and attack. This poignant array of worn-out, ill-fitting and jerry-rigged shoes offers silent testimony to the arduous nature of their journey as well as the persistence and ingenuity of those who survived it.