The plane suddenly stops.
Chogi’s hand shoots out grabbing his big brother’s thigh and squeezing tightly. He turns to me with a face looking like a question mark, and I reassure him everything is ok. Two seconds later the turbulence is over, but the eight-year-old’s hand rests on Jidu – just in case.
Chogi doesn’t remember the last time he was on an airplane. He was four-years-old back in 2013 and they had just escaped the bullets flying in Malakal, in the north east of the country.
Their mother was out collecting firewood when the fighting started. A neighbour grabbed Chogi, Jidu and their sister Ferdos and fled by foot and boat to Fangak, about 60 kilometers away. It took several days, “we had to sleep outside every night,” Jidu remembers.
They spent a few weeks in Fangak before they were taken by plane to the capital, Juba. Since the day they fled, the three have prayed their mother is alive and that one day they will feel her warm embrace once again.
Three excited faces are glued to the windows as the wheels touch down in Malakal. The pilot hits the brakes and shortly after the siblings set foot on ground. Almost home.
In the protection of civilians (PoC) site in Malakal, Khamisa Adam puts on her best dress with green and purple batik patterns, and walks the 20 meters from her iron sheet home to the road. Friends and neighbors have already gathered and are now waiting with her under the baking sun.
Chogi, Jidu and Ferdos climb into the UNICEF car, Chogi goes in the front with me to see better. There is total silence. No one is saying anything, except for the driver reporting our movements to the radio room. Three pair of eyes peer out through the windows.
In the PoC, Khamisa sees the UNICEF logo on the car and starts walking towards it, then dashes along the last ten meters until the vehicle has made its final stop.
The door opens and Jidu runs into his mother’s arms. Ferdos is just seconds behind and is immediately embraced. Tears are running down everyone’s cheeks when Chogi jumps down from the front seat and is immediately picked up and kissed.
They are finally together again as a family.
Across South Sudan, UNICEF and partners are committed to making families whole again. Since the conflict began in December 2013 close to 6,000 children have been reunited with their parents or caregivers. Still, 15,000 children remain separated from their families or are missing.
Mary, my child protection colleague in Malakal said to me after the reunification that she cries happy tears every time she sees a family made whole again.
"There is something special about those moments, and you forget all the hours of hard work going into every case and every family,” she says.
We filmed this reunification to document this magical moment and I still get goosebumps when I’m watching it. Take a look yourself.
Stay up-to-date on UNICEF's work in Australia and around the world
27 Sept 2022
Can you imagine bringing your own water to hospital to give birth?
Find out how health care workers are providing safe and sustainable births in Timor-Leste.
27 Sept 2022
“I refused to give up.”
Meet Joanna, a passionate Child Protection officer, advocating for child-focused systems in Timor-Leste.
20 Sept 2022
Leading the way in Tennant Creek
These Aboriginal educators are inspiring the next generation of First Nations children
18 Sept 2022
“We did not have hope that he would survive.”
Munaf suffered from a rare, deadly condition associated with COVID-19. This is how he recovered.
7 Sept 2022
Social media for social good
UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador Emily Unity shares their thoughts around social media.
7 Sept 2022
Redefining how we support new mothers in Laos
A little cash goes a long way to save lives.
7 Sept 2022
Arlo Parks, a voice for the next generation
The award-winning UK musician met UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors for a chat about mental health and making an impact.
12 Aug 2022
The Wiggles sing 'Wash your hands'
The Wiggles and UNICEF Australia release a ‘Handwashing Song’ and video to help children stay healthy
12 Aug 2022
Making handwashing fun for children in Cambodia
Every child has a right to clean, safe water in schools.
5 Aug 2022
The disease we can’t forget about
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed healthcare systems to the brink. It also created a perfect storm for other disease outbreaks.
21 July 2022
Hygiene and health go hand in hand
Ms. Nang, 25, is a teacher at a primary school in the Savannakhet province in Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Every morning, the rhythmic beat of a drum is the first sound that greets you in her classroom as she performs a roll call of her students using the class’s miniature-sized drum.
15 July 2022
Powerful photos reveal Ethiopia's worst drought in decades
After three failed consecutive rainy seasons, four countries across the Horn of Africa are experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades. Overall, in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, 10 million children need urgent life-saving support, with 1.7 million children severely malnourished across the subregion.