Who Are the Lost Boys of Sudan?

For 41 of the 50 years from 1955 to 2005, two civil wars raged in the nation of Sudan, with only nine years of peace separating them.

In the late 1980s, the country’s second civil war produced a particularly horrific ordeal as more than 20,000 young boys, and also some girls, sought protection by fleeing in some cases more than a thousand miles. Some had been orphaned by the fighting; others were told by their parents to run for their lives.

Only about half of the children survived the initial journey to a squalid refugee camp in Ethiopia. Aid workers and news media referred to them as the lost boys of Sudan.

In 1991, driven violently from that first camp, the boys wandered for months again before arriving at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. In 2001, the United States brought some 4,000 of the surviving lost boys—most of whom were now adults—to the U.S. Many earned college degrees and became citizens, and a number also returned to assist the new nation of South Sudan after it gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

Some also went to Canada, where Samaritan’s Purse worked with the University of Calgary to upgrade the skills of those who had some medical training. Most of them returned to South Sudan, where they provide invaluable medical service in a country with very little health care.

Suffering, however, continues to plague the region. Civil war has engulfed South Sudan since 2013, displacing some 2 million people—one million to Uganda alone—and in February, famine was declared in parts of the country.

Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse have ministered in the region for more than 20 years, and the organization continues to provide food, water and medical care to hundreds of thousands, in addition to teaching people to read the Bible and leading reconciliation and peacemaking workshops.