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In Photos: The Sudanese Refugees Who Fled Intense Fighting and Aerial Bombardment

VICE News traveled to Sudan's war-torn South Kordofan state and the Yida refugee camp over the border in South Sudan, home to 90,000 refugees.
Photo by Adam Bailes

Intensified ground fighting in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan's war-torn South Kordofan state is causing a record number of refugees to flee across the border after some the heaviest violence since the civil war began.

For over three years a bloody dispute has raged in the region between government Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army-North rebels (SPLA-N).

The strategic frontline village of Angartu was destroyed in January and around 10,000 people have reportedly fled in the fighting. The conflict has left thousands displaced and living in desperate conditions with poor food security, no education, and living in fear of continued aerial bombardment.


With their books in their hands, school children stand and watch smoke rise where a bomb fell less than a half a mile away. Photo by Adam Bailes.

Families who fled recent fighting from surrounding villages, shelter under trees with little access to food or water. Photo by Adam Bailes.

In the village of Um Serdiba, residents say over 200 bombs can fall a day. A woman shelter in a drainage ditch holding a young child. She has lived here for three months. Photo by Adam Bailes.

SPLA-N rebels walk through what remains of Anguartu village, destroyed by fighting last month. Buildings flattened by shelling and bombing, food stores looted, and houses burned. Photo by Adam Bailes.

The latest round of peace talks failed in Ethiopia in March and the fighting has intensified in the run-up to Sudan's general elections on April 13.

While the Khartoum government has repeatedly been accused of intentionally targeting civilians, it denies all allegations. Meanwhile, the aerial attacks In Nuba mountains are daily. High-flying Antonov cargo planes drop bombs in the region and whole villages who stay are now forced to live in caves, the only places left of relative safety.

Hundreds of artillery shells have reportedly hit the area around Kauda, Kega, and Talodi, combined with the aerial attacks from government fighter jets and Antonov bombers. Some residents reported seeing drones circle overhead before bombing.

On top of the fighting, South Kordofan has also been under blockade since the war began. Food and medical supplies are scarce, while NGOs and journalists are banned, raising questions about the clarity of what is really going on in this long running conflict.

Over 90,0000 Sudanese Nubans now live in Yida refugee camp across the border in South Sudan. Photo by Adam Bailes.

New arrival Gisma Musa Farjala stands with her family, she says their father is not around as "he was killed in this war." Photo by Adam Bailes.

Childrens' graffiti shows the land and life they have fled. Photo by Adam Bailes.

Many civilians who could get out already have, walking for weeks on dirt roads that cross the border into South Sudan.

In South Sudan's Unity state, over 90,000 Sudanese refugees who have fled now call Yida refugee camp home. UNHCR officials told VICE News that "700-900 people are fleeing across the border from South Kordofan every week." This is a 100 percent increase in new arrivals compared to the same period in 2013 and 2014.


VICE News visited the Yida camp, where tattered UNHCR sheets cover miles of shacks lining bright orange dust roads. New arrival Gisma Musa Farjala sits exhausted under a tree with her four children. She told VICE News: "We struggle in our areas here, we struggle to eat, we do not have water, we do not have electricity. They come and bomb us, what have we done?"

Farjala said the shelling in Sudan started in December and when the attacks began she just managed to flee with her children: "I couldn't even pick up water from the house."

Kia TuTu, 68, arrived in Yida in February. He told VICE News that he fled his home because of the renewed fighting: "They continue to bombard us day and night, that is why we ran away… they follow us wherever we go and bomb us. We left a lot of things behind because we couldn't run with everything."

As night falls children play soccer in Yida refugee camp. South Sudan. Photo by Adam Bailes.

A SPLA-N rebel soldier poses with a heavy machine gun. They say they took many weapons after a recent victory against Sudan Government forces. Photo by Adam Bailes.

A new arrival at Yida camp. Photo by Adam Bailes.

TuTu continued: "The bombs gave us no time to rest. The plane was bombing us all the time, in the night, in the day. We were living in caves all the time. At night the Antonovs come, if they see any small light when people are trying to cook they will bomb. They bombed all our houses and burned all our food."

With just a battered suitcase and her three children Gelila Abreham also recently arrived in Yida camp. She told VICE News: "We did not carry anything but these children of ours, we do not have anything. Before the war we used to farm, but after the bombardment started we could not continue with that. We lost our parents and life has become so difficult for us. Before the war we used to live well but now we don't."