“There were some very young children, one who was only four days old when he boarded the flight and another only a week old. Mothers who had only recently given birth and then had to flee.”
Those are the words of brave Liverpool woman Barbara Smith who flew thousands of miles to help evacuees flee war in Sudan.
Barbara, 67, was part of a team of six British Red Cross psychosocial support volunteers in Cyprus, who met with people arriving in a military aircraft from the African nation.
“Some had travelled 800+ kilometres along dangerous routes. You can imagine how cold and hungry people were. I know from experience that those military flights can be very cold and uncomfortable,” Barbara said.
The ongoing refugee crisis began in mid-April 2023 after fighting broke out in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. By May more than 200,000 had fled the country.
Some of the evacuees were mothers who had only recently given birth. One told Barbara of “having to go to the hospital in Khartoum under cover of darkness and under police escort to ensure the safe delivery of her baby.”
Originally from Rainhill, Barbara has been a volunteer with the British Red Cross Psychosocial Support team for 16 years, and has provided support after the Tunisia (2015) and Mumbai (2008) terror attacks, where she went with the government’s rapid deployment team to help injured and bereaved British nationals.
She now lives Liverpool and continues to provide essential support. “Our role was about receiving evacuated people off military flights from Sudan, firstly from Khartoum and then in the last few days from Port Sudan,” she says.
“Some of us specialise in crisis response, others in trauma response. We have specific training for such deployments, including hostile environment awareness training, and team members come from many backgrounds, psychotherapy, nursing, crisis management, project management. The thing that ties us together is our humanitarian values.”