The Lost Boys of Sudan: 12 years later

Bob Simon first met the Lost Boys in a Kenyan refugee camp in 2001 after they had fled civil war in the Sudan. Some of the young men were relocated to the U.S. -- how are they doing now?

The following script is from "The Lost Boys" which aired on March 31, 2013. Bob Simon is the correspondent. Draggan Mihailovich, producer.

Twelve years ago, 60 Minutes aired a story about Lost Boys from Sudan who fought off unspeakable dangers and then flew off to the United States. It all began in the 1980s, during Sudan's civil war in which more than two million people died. The boys' parents were killed; their sisters often sold into slavery. Many of the boys died too. But the survivors, thousands of them, started walking across East Africa. Alone.

How to help the Lost Boys of the Sudan

Five years later they walked into a refugee camp in Kenya. That's where we first met them, when many were hoping to go to the United States. Well 3,000 did, as part of the largest resettlement of its kind in American history. We followed the boys for more than a decade and couldn't resist revisiting them, to see how they're doing. But first, we'll take you back to northern Kenya, to the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Springtime 2001.

Nothing drew a crowd like the list. Once a week, the Lost Boys saw their destiny on a bulletin board. The staples of life. On this day, 90 learned they'd be going to America. .

[Voices: Boston. I'm going to Flororida...Flororida]

Every Sunday, a plane arrived at the camp to take the boys from nowhere to somewhere, from Kakuma to JFK and beyond. Not all of the Lost Boys got to go. Joseph Taban Rufino had walked to the board so many times, he tried not to get excited.

Bob Simon: What's new?

Joseph Taban Rufino: Something new. I've seen my name on the board.

Bob Simon: Your name is on the board. Where are you going?

Joseph Taban Rufino: That's Kansas City.

Bob Simon: Do you know where it is?

Joseph Taban Rufino: I don't know...

Abraham Yel Nhial was taking this walk for the 25th time. He was an ordained minister of Sudan's Episcopal Church at Kakuma. He looked at the board as if it were a holy scroll.

Abraham Yel Nhial: I'm going to Chicago...Is it interesting?

Bob Simon: Oh, it's very interesting.

Abraham Yel Nhial: Thank you for that.

They were known as the Lost Boys because they were between five and 11 when their Christian villages in southern Sudan were attacked by Islamist forces from the north. When they saw their villages burning, they started running. Streams of boys became rivers. Hundreds became thousands until an exodus of biblical proportions was underway. They walked for three months across Sudan, barefoot. Twelve thousand found refuge in Ethiopia. But after four years, they were chased out at gunpoint, chased to the Gilo River where the waters did not part. For Joseph Taban, that day will never go away.

Joseph Taban Rufino: We saw so many people who were just floating on the river.

Bob Simon: Dead bodies.

Joseph Taban Rufino: Dead bodies, yeah, who are floating on the river...

Many were shot. Many drowned. Many were eaten by crocodiles. Zachariah Magok was there.

Zachariah Magok: One thousand to 2,000 who died in that river.

Bob Simon: One or 2,000 died in that river?

Zachariah Magok: Yes.

60 Minutes App

New Look. New Season. The 60 Minutes app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch!

More from 60 Minutes