South Sudan: The Heart of an Emergency

28 December 2016

South Sudan: The Heart of an Emergency

“There’s no food at all,” said Adeng. “Completely no food.”

Adeng’s entire family is struggling to stay alive. Her face fills with worry as she tells me how she watched her healthy and lively children weaken, lose weight, and become frail. 

Like so many others in this region of South Sudan, Adeng and her family are suffering because droughts and floods have destroyed most of their crops, and food prices at local markets have leapt out of reach. Families are now eating seeds to survive.  

“The nutrition situation in Northern Bahr el Ghazal is one of the biggest malnutrition crises the country has seen in years,” said Becky Hammond, Medair’s Medical Manager in South Sudan.

As if the lack of food wasn’t bad enough, swarms of mosquitoes are infecting people with malaria in massive numbers—a rise of 400 percent in just nine weeks. It seems that in every community there are reports of weakened children dying of malaria.

When our emergency health team met a room full of community leaders, they told us the nearest health clinic was three hours away but hadn’t had medicines for six months. When we told them we would set up a nutrition project, I saw visible relief and joy on their faces. “You will be doing something that will not be forgotten,” they said. 

The next day, we ran a nutrition clinic for malnourished children under five. We set up in a clearing near the shade of some trees, and more than 200 children came.

Adeng and her husband walked for 90 minutes with their children when they heard that Medair was coming to help. “I’m hoping to get something to eat, so we’ll live. If not, we’ll die,” said Adeng, staring at the horizon.

By 3 pm (15:00), nearly every severely malnourished child had also tested positive for malaria. I felt extremely thankful that Medair had come in time to give the children malaria treatment and nutrition support.

“Medair is good because they help our children,” said Adeng, who received a week’s supply of nutrient-rich food for her youngest two children, a bar of soap, and a mosquito net to protect her family against malaria. 

Near day’s end, I saw a gorgeous little girl sitting on her mother’s lap. Her bright curious eyes stood out in stark contrast to the thinness of her arms and legs.

The girl’s mother, Amir, was beautiful, with a radiant smile that belied her circumstances. She told me she spends every day looking for food for herself and her daughter: “Maybe tomorrow I will die. Only God knows. Even last night I didn’t eat.”

As we talked, I felt great admiration for this strong young woman, just 18, who carried her severely malnourished daughter in the scorching sun to the Medair clinic. She has not given up hope. Neither can we.

Thank you to all our supporters who have donated to Medair South Sudan. With your help, we have already set up several emergency nutrition clinics to treat malnourished children, and we are aiming to set up more.  We have also opened a malaria treatment centre in Aweil town and are providing communities with emergency water, sanitation, and hygiene services. 

Medair’s work in South Sudan is possible because of the support of the European Commission, US Agency for International Development, UK Government, Common Humanitarian Fund, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, US Department of State, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with Tear NL, and through the Dutch Relief Alliance Joint Response for South Sudan, Principality of Liechtenstein, and generous private donors. 

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.

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