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A baby born amid gunfire

Manyang David Mayar

Senior Producer, BBC Media Action in South Sudan

Pregnant women fleeing the fighting in Jonglei state, South Sudan.

I was in the town of Bor when fighting broke out last month in South Sudan. I managed to escape the town despite being shot in the arm. But many other people had a far tougher time – people like Nyiel Magot, nine months pregnant and faced with the awful choice of staying in Bor’s hospital or fleeing into the bush. 

Against her doctors' advice, Nyiel decided to escape the immediate danger, and with her five children, took a narrow path out of town which was packed with people also heading to safety.

But, she told me, with every step she took, she grew weaker and more and more people overtook her. 

"I was really tired and the pain became really unbearable," Nyiel said. "I knew the time had come for me to give birth and I had to get out of Bor immediately to escape the attackers."

Giving birth in the bush

Later that evening, the pain finally forced Nyiel to stop. Instead of a hospital ward, she found an abandoned grass-thatched house.

Luckily, there was a traditional birth attendant nearby who used her bare hands to help Nyiel deliver a healthy baby boy.

But the cold nights and hot days of December in South Sudan soon started to take their toll on the new born and reports of an imminent rebel attack forced Nyiel and her family to leave their hideout.

They walked for days until they crossed the River Nile and came to a large camp for displaced people in Awerial. And then her baby caught diarrhoea and started to vomit.

He was rushed to a hospital in Juba where, after days of treatment, he recovered.

A child of conflict

It was in the hospital in Juba that I met Nyiel and heard her story – and also learned the name of her little baby.

Nyiel had called him Matuor, the Dinka word for ‘gun’, because he was born amid gunfire.

As the conflict continues in South Sudan, I fear he won’t be the last baby born in the bush with such a name. 

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