Lost Boys of Sudan

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The Lost Boys of Sudan is the name given to the groups of over 20,000 boys of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups who were displaced and/or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005); about 2.5 million were killed and millions were displaced.[1] The name "Lost Boys of Sudan" was colloquially used by aid workers in the refugee camps where the boys resided in Africa. The term was revived, as children fled the post-independence violence of South Sudan with Sudan during 2011–13.[2] [3]


Most of the boys were orphans separated from their families when government troops and rebels of the south systematically attacked villages in southern Sudan, killing many of the inhabitants. Many avoided capture or death because they were away from their villages tending cattle at the cattle camps (grazing land located near bodies of water where cattle were taken and tended largely by the village children during the dry season) and were able to flee and hide in the dense African bush. Some of the unaccompanied male minors were conscripted by the Southern rebel forces and used as soldiers in the rebel army, while others were handed over to the government by their own families to ensure protection, for food, and under a false impression the child would be attending school.[4]

Presumably orphaned, they traveled by foot for years in search of safe refuge, on a journey that carried them over a thousand miles across three countries to refugee camps where they resided in Ethiopia and Kenya and in various villages where they sought refuge in South Sudan. Over half died along their epic journey, due to starvation, dehydration, sickness and disease and attack by wild animals and enemy soldiers.[5] Experts say they are the most badly war-traumatized children ever examined.[1]

The war impacted girls too. When villages were attacked, girls were raped, and women and small children (boys and girls) were taken to the north to be used or sold as slaves. When arriving in the camps in Ethiopia, the boys were placed in boys-only areas of the camp, but according to Sudanese culture, the girls could not be left alone and were placed with surviving family members or adopted by other Sudanese families. When the resettlement program to the US was initiated in 1999, one of the requirements was that the children must be orphans. Because these girls had been living in these family units for up to 9–14 years, they were no longer considered orphans and therefore, were not eligible for the resettlement program. As a result, relatively few of the Lost Girls were deemed eligible for the resettlement program to the US.[5]

From 1992 to 1996, UNICEF had reunited almost 1200 Lost Boys with their families. However, about 17,000 were still in camps in the area as of 1996.[6]

In 2001, as part of a program established by the United States Government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), approximately 3800 Lost Boys were allowed to resettle in the United States.[5] They are now scattered over at least 38 cities.[1] Halted after 9/11 for security reasons, the program restarted in 2004. As of 2006, the largest population of Sudanese refugees in the United States is in Omaha, Nebraska, which hosts about 7,000 people.[7] Numerous resettlement agencies, such as Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, the IRC (International Rescue Committee), World Relief and others assisted in the resettlement process. A variety of programs have been initiated to help these displaced people, in areas of education, medical assistance, reconnecting with families in South Sudan and in rebuilding efforts and providing humanitarian aid in Southern Sudan.[5]

In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between the North and South of Sudan allowing free access to Lost Boys/ Girls and Sudanese Diaspora from around the world to return to their homeland. As a result, many are now returning to South Sudan to pay it forward and help in the rebuilding of their war-torn country and to provide humanitarian aid and support. In January 2011, 99.47% of South Sudanese voted to separate from the north and become an independent nation. Some American former Lost Boys and Girls now hold positions in the current Government of South Sudan.[8]

Books, films and plays[edit]

There have been a number of books, films and plays about the Lost Boys, including:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lost Boys of Sudan, official IRC website.
  2. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey (30 June 2012). "New Wave of 'Lost Boys' Flee Sudan's Lingering War". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Simon Tisdall (5 July 2013). "Fears of a new Darfur as refugees are caught in violence on Sudan's border". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  4. ^ See for example War Child: A Child Soldier's Story by Emmanuel Jal
  5. ^ a b c d Joan Hecht. The Journey of the Lost Boys
  6. ^ 1996 Unicef report
  7. ^ Burbach, C. "Rally features Sudanese vice president." Omaha World-Herald. July 22, 2006.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ lopezlomong.com
  10. ^ A Hare in the Elephant's Trunk, a novel based on the life of Jacob Deng. ISBN 978-0-88995-451-9
  11. ^ Rebuilding Hope, a documentary by Jen Marlowe
  12. ^ Aher Arop Bol, The Lost Boy: The true story of a young boy's flight from Sudan to South Africa, Kwela Books. ISBN 978-0-7957-0278-5
  13. ^ War Child official film website
  14. ^ "Arkansas author to visit Saline County Library". The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. January 8, 2009. Retrieved July 21, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Lonnie Carter website". Lonnie Carter. Retrieved September 9, 2012.  Full text of play available online.
  16. ^ Quinton Skinner (April 2, 2007). "The Lost Boys of Sudan". Variety. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  17. ^ Zac Thompson (April 10, 2010). "The Second Act Is American Life". Chicago Reader. Retrieved September 9, 2012. . Further reviews at Review Round-Up, theatreinchicago.com, retrieved September 11, 2012.
  18. ^ John Bul Dau and Michael Sweeney, God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir. ISBN 978-1-4262-0114-1
  19. ^ Felicia R. McMahon, Not Just Child's Play: Emerging Tradition and the Lost Boys of Sudan. ISBN 978-1-57806-987-3
  20. ^ God Grew Tired of Us official film website.
  21. ^ They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky, official book site.
  22. ^ The Lost Boys of Sudan: An American Story of the Refugee Experience
  23. ^ Joan Hecht, The Journey of the Lost Boys. ISBN 0-9763875-0-6
  24. ^ http://www.allianceforthelostboys.com/ Alliance For The Lost Boys], official web site.
  25. ^ Dinka Diaries at IMDB
  26. ^ I Heart Huckabees at IMDB
  27. ^ Abraham Nhial and DiAnn Mills. Lost Boy No More. ISBN 0-8054-3186-1
  28. ^ Benjamin and His Brother.
  29. ^ Yang, Daniel Cheng (August 2002). Kakuma - Turkana: Dueling Struggles: Africa's Forgotten Peoples. Pangaea. ISBN 978-1929165506. 

External links[edit]


Photographs and articles