Discuss as:

American missionaries in South Sudan may return to US, leave orphans behind

Ben Curtis / AP

Katie Talbott at at United Nations camp on Dec. 30 holding one of the orphans her mother Kim Campbell and stepfather Brad Campbell are raising in South Sudan.

An American family who set up an orphanage in South Sudan said Tuesday they may be forced to return to the United States, leaving behind the 10 children in their care.

Brad and Kim Campbell and their two children fled their orphanage to a nearby United Nations camp amid fighting on Christmas Day, before flying to Kenya last week.

They were unable to take the orphans with them because they could not get the necessary travel documents. The children are still at the camp, in the hands of orphanage volunteers.

Despite having no concrete plan of what they would do once in Kenya, the family hoped that in leaving the conflict area they would be in a better position to send back supplies and money. They said they have always planned to return to the orphanage, which is their only home.

But with civilian flights into Malakal almost non-existent, they have found no way to get supplies, let alone themselves, back to the city. Brad, 44, told NBC News on Tuesday that the family has begun to question whether the family made a mistake.

"I think we’ve all been through that -- second guessing ourselves," he said, speaking from the Kenyan capital Nairobi. "Staying positive is a day-to-day challenge for us. I’m not sure what we expected in a situation like this, but we are fully expecting to get back to South Sudan."

They are staying at a friend's apartment in Nairobi which is available for two weeks. After this, with no sustainable funds or jobs, Campbell said the family may be forced to return to the U.S. "for a while, as a last resort."

However, Campbell, whose family sold their home in Omaha, Neb., to set up the orphanage last year, admitted the outlook for the war-torn country was bleak.

Both sides in the conflict met in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, on Monday, but the violence which broke out between rival factions of the military in the capital Juba on Dec. 15 shows no signs of abating. The U.N. says almost 400,000 people have been forced to flee their homes -- more than 40,000 of these abroad.

The International Crisis Group said more than 10,000 people have been killed, although the U.N. cannot verify this number, merely putting the death toll "in the thousands."

The U.N. said that just this week there has been fighting near Malakal. Campbell said he has not been able to contact anyone in the area since Saturday. "This is obviously concerning," he said.

Related: