Three years ago, 38-year-old Nyagonga Machul had to leave her five young children when fighting broke out between government and opposition forces in South Sudan. The children, who were staying with their grandmother, ran into the bush when gunmen approached their village.
On Monday, after years of wondering whether they were safe, Machul and her children were reunited.
A political leadership dispute in South Sudan sparked the violence in December 2013, forcing an estimated 2 million people from their homes and causing 1.5 million more to flee the country. Families scattered in the chaos, but from time to time, lost loved ones are reunited.
With the help of friendly neighbors, Machul’s children made their way to a U.N.-protected site in the town of Bentiu in northern South Sudan. UNICEF works with local partner groups to help protect and reunite children with their families through its registry database.
They matched the lost children with their mother, who by then had taken residence in another protected camp in the capital Juba, 620 miles away from Bentiu.
“God has answered my prayers,” she said upon their return on Monday.
Reuters chronicled the Machul children’s journey in this report. See their reunion in the photos below.