This article explores the complexity of survival during conflict in the absence of protection. During the 2014-18 conflict between the South Sudan government and armed opposition, armed groups carried out extreme acts of violence against civilians. Suffering and scarcity during such ties requires families to take on new responsibilities, and challenges norms of who should be cared for and protected. Widows, usually cared for by their late husbands family as a way of remembering and honouring the dead, may instead face situations of insecure tenure and face eviction – while also being overlooked by aid agencies who assume that they will continue to receive the same family support as previously.

The story of Nyapuottek, a widow from the Sudanese war, illustrates how fraught it can be to navigate changing relations during times of conflict and migration, and how such struggles can intersect with humanitarian initiatives.