Marta Kalibe sits in an open area at Renk civil hospital, Upper Nile state, as she prepares meals for her three children. South Sudan, 2023 © Evani Debone/MSF

I am not a refugee or a returnee … I am a mother who has lost her children fleeing a conflict 

Marta Kaliba
Mother from Sudan

Dear world,

I have been at the hospital for three weeks, watching over my eight-year-old son and my five-year-old daughter, both suffering from malnutrition. They are not the same as I remember them back in our home city of Khartoum. They are receiving special food and medicines, and a doctor checks their vital signs many times a day.

Our lives changed in April. We were a family of eight living in Khartoum. I was at home caring for my six children, and my husband was earning enough as a construction worker. My youngest was a baby who I still breastfed. Needless to say, our home was full, and children were running and playing all over the place. Everything was okay until we heard the bombs and gunshots; neighbours and people we knew were dying.

As a family, we decided to leave. My husband stayed behind, and my six children and I embarked on a journey to South Sudan, the country we had originally migrated from. We took a bus, and from one displacement camp to another, we started moving.

MSF nurse Isaac Dak examines Nyakoang Bigoah, a seven-month-old baby boy admitted to the MSF-supported inpatient therapeutic feeding centre at Renk civil hospital in Upper Nile state. South Sudan, 2023 © Evani Debone/MSF

As we arrived in Alagaya camp within Sudan, the children started to fall sick; they had measles. The baby was the first to get a fever; after one week, the three-year-old and later the nine-year-old one. They died.

I had to bury my three children far from home. Far from anyone they knew. Far from where we were going.

As I continued my journey to South Sudan, I arrived at Renk, where I discovered that my eight-year-old son and my five-year-old daughter were malnourished. The change in food, the long journey and the grief have been arduous for me and my family. I have lost three children, and the other two are fighting for their lives.

Every day at the hospital, I find the strength to look after them. I cook what I can with the other mothers who also have their children at the hospital. We sit under a tree. The other children play; they climb trees, and I can’t wait for my children to be among them. Many families here struggle for food and water. Hardly anyone has a proper shelter.

As soon as my children feel better, my husband will join us and we will continue our journey, maybe to Malakal. I will try to contact my extended family in South Sudan, but I am uncertain of the future. We would need a lot of courage and help to survive during the coming difficult days to start a new life in South Sudan.

My house will still be half full.  

Your fellow human being,

Marta Kaliba

MSF medical staff Gosipshin Edward examines a child during the MSF mobile clinic at the Zero Transit Centre in Renk, Upper Nile state. South Sudan, 2023 © Evani Debone/MSF