Senem and the long walk to freedom
In July, I reported on the fate of refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State, arriving in flooded, crowded camps in neighbouring South Sudan.
Many had walked for two or three months, hiding in the bush, eating nothing but leaves and bark, having fled their homes in the Ingessena Mountains, where they had come under attack from Sudan forces.
Among those I met was an old lady, called Senem Adam, who said she was 90 years old.
She came from a place called Jam in Ingessena — and this had been the first time in her long life that she’d left her mountain home. She had lived with her grown-up children in a farm where they had cattle and camels and donkeys.
In April this year, the house was attacked and burned to the ground. Two of her sons and their wives were killed, she said. Shot dead. And all the children. She fled with her two surviving sons on legs as thin and wizened as old sticks. She arrived in a hellish refugee camp and was forced to camp under a plastic sheet, in thick mud.
It’s a measure of how much she’d been through that she was, despite her circumstances, simply delighted to be there.
Senem Adam featured in my report for Channel 4 News.
I also took a photograph of the old lady’s feet, on which she’d trudged for so long. She wore simple black plastic shoes and she wore a small ankle bracelet on each leg.
Unbeknownst to me, a young American photographer called Shannon Jensen was also struck by the footwear of the 170,000 refugees who’d poured across the frontier. She was working in the Jamam refugee camp at the same time. Today she sent me a link to a collection of her photographs, published by Newsweek International.
Shannon is the Imelda Marcos of refugee photographers. She tells me that other portraits from her vast collection of shoes will appear in Saturday’s Telegraph Magazine. These are the images by which she documented the refugees’ incredible journey.
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