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South Sudanese mothers dread rising malnutrition and hunger

“I watched my baby girl’s condition deteriorate from moderate acute malnutrition to severe acute malnutrition and I was helpless”, shares Angelina Aduok, a 30-year old mother of five.

Angelina recalls, “After I had my twins, my marriage was dissolved because we are cousins. I got depressed and lost my appetite, which affected my supply of breast milk for my twins Maria and Martha. Martha got sick and became malnourished at five months old.” 

Due to the dire situation she was in, Angelina started feeding her twins six months against the doctor’s advice of exclusive breastfeeding. She says, “I fed my children with, water, wild fruits, and foods because I couldn’t afford a bottle of milk, which resulted in Martha getting sick and malnourished.”

A World Vision nutrition staff talks to two of Angelina's children during a visit.

 

After Martha has been admitted for one month in the program to treat her malnutrition, Angelina was advised to bring Martha from Aburoc to Kodok for further treatment. “Martha recovered after several months. Angelina says, “Now, I am afraid as the situation of food is getting worse by the day.”

In 2019, Angelina secured a loan from the market to start up a small business. She used to buy and sell fish in the market. She says, “But the cash could not meet all our needs. We have been eating once a day but now with the slow business due to the economy, I am afraid we are likely to starve.”

Angelina lives in a small room with her five children and her sick mother. She is worried about the fast-approaching rainy season. She shares, “This whole area gets flooded when it rains. I spend the whole night scooping the water out for my children to sleep.”

Angelina worries for her twins Maria and Martha who went through a difficult malnutrition period and are now faced with hunger. Mothers said they see 2021 as a very difficult year.

 

“We have nowhere to go, and the little money I have is spent on medication unfortunately sometimes the facilities run out of drugs due to inaccessible roads. The rain comes with a lot of challenges for families like mine”, Angelina adds.

Many children and mothers continue to suffer from acute malnutrition in South Sudan. The year 2021 is even harder due to the worsening economic situation, the lack of access to food, flooding, the coronavirus pandemic among many other factors.

“I would have died while delivering my baby. I was weak due to acute malnutrition”, says Monica Joseph, the 28-year-old mother of two. She adds, “I became malnourished during my 7th-month of pregnancy due to a lack of food and poor nutrition. My husband left me after marrying a second wife in Khartoum.”

“Most women in my community succumb to miscarriages, even death, due to effects of acute malnutrition. With the worsening economic situation, men even have turned violent towards women, also affecting children”, says Monica.

World Vision's nutrition team during awareness-raising activity on proper nutrition and COVID-19 prevention with mothers in Kodok, a part of Fashoda County in Upper Nile State.

 

According to her, 2021 is worse than 2020. She now lives at her father’s house with the children. She says, “Everything in the market is expensive, and many cannot afford it. My children and I depend on my father’s meager salary. I worry so much for my 6-months old Caroline and 5-year old David.”

Rahab Kimani Roving Nutrition Manager concurs with Monica, “Many children and mothers continue to suffer from acute malnutrition in South Sudan. The year 2021 is even harder due to worsening economic situation, the lack of access to food, flooding, the coronavirus pandemic among many other factors.”

William Lagu, World Vision’s Nutrition Manager in Kodok, said the malnutrition situation is critical, and the need for continuous delivery of life-saving nutrition interventions to people in the communities is urgent at this time.

To survive hunger, 28-year old Monica brought her two children, 6-months old Caroline and 5-year old David to live with her father after her husband left her. (Note: Also in cover photo)

 

With funding support from UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP), and Global Affairs Canada, World Vision’s Sustained Response to Emergencies (SURE II) Project has been reaching out to communities with malnutrition interventions in Kodok, a part of Fashoda County in Upper Nile State.

In 2020, a total of 2,906 under-five children were reached with Outpatient Therapeutic Program and Targeted Supplementary Feeding Program. At least 4,299 mothers were reached with messages on maternal, infant, and young child nutrition, and 2,331 pregnant and lactating women in Upper Nile State through its nutrition programming.

“The risk of malnutrition increases child mortality and can soar up to 70 times higher than average. It is a barrier to human and economic development. Therefore, prevention from malnutrition in all its forms including breaking the intergenerational cycle is crucial for children and communities’ survival, health, development, education and long-term productivity”, Kimani concludes.

Watch: South Sudan mothers battle COVID-19 with livelihood and resilience

Story and photos by Scovia Faida Charles Duku with inputs from Laghu William Wenger, Nutrition Project Manager, and Rahab Kimani, Roving Nutrition Manager